Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder (neurological) in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing convulsions or periods of unusual behavior and sensations, and sometimes loss of consciousness.
The symptoms of epilepsy can vary considerably. Some people with epilepsy simply look in a vacuum for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly contract their arms or legs in convulsions. This is due to the fact that there is not one form of epilepsy but several, depending on the abnormal activity of the brain:
Partial or focal crisis
Having one seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are usually required to establish the diagnosis.
Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal brain activity, seizures can affect any process coordinated by the brain.
Signs and symptoms of seizures may include:
A temporary confusion
Uncontrollable jerky movements of arms and legs
A loss of consciousness
Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or déjà vu
The symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to reproduce the same type of seizure each time, so that the symptoms will be similar from one episode to another and are easily recognized.
Focal or partial seizures
When seizures seem to result from abnormal activity in only one part of your brain, they are called focal (partial) seizures. They fall into two categories:
Focal seizures without loss of consciousness or also called partial partial seizures, these seizures do not cause loss of consciousness. They can alter emotions or change the appearance of things, smell, feel, taste or sound. They can also cause involuntary shaking of a part of the body, such as an arm or leg, and spontaneous sensory symptoms such as tingling, vertigo, and flashing lights.
Focal attacks with altered consciousness or also called complex partial seizures. These crises involve a change or loss of consciousness. During a complex partial seizure, you can look in space and not respond normally to your environment or perform repetitive movements, such as rubbing hands, chewing, swallowing, or going around in circles.
The symptoms of focal seizures may be confused with other neurological disorders, such as migraine or narcolepsy. A thorough examination and tests are needed to distinguish epilepsy from other disorders.
Seizures that seem to involve all areas of the brain are called generalized seizures. Six types of generalized crises exist.
Absence crises. Epileptic seizures, previously known as small-onset seizures, often occur in children and are characterized by a fixed gaze in space or by subtle body movements such as blinking or snapping lips. . These seizures can occur in groups and cause a brief loss of consciousness.
Tonic crises. They cause a stiffening of your muscles. These seizures usually affect the muscles of the back, arms, and legs, and can fall to the ground.
Atonic crises, also called gout attacks. They cause a loss of muscle control, which can lead to a sudden collapse or fall.
Clonic crises. They are associated with repeated muscular movements or rhythmic, jerky. These seizures usually affect the neck, face and arms.
Myoclonic crises. These seizures usually appear as sudden jolts or shaking of your arms and legs.
Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly known as epileptic seizures. These are the most dramatic type of epileptic seizures: they can cause sudden loss of consciousness, stiffness and tremors, and sometimes loss of bladder control or bite of the tongue.
When to see a doctor?
Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
The crisis lasts more than five minutes.
Breath or consciousness does not come back after the end of the crisis.
A second crisis follows immediately.
You are experiencing heat exhaustion.
You are pregnant.
You have diabetes.
You hurt yourself during the crisis.
If you feel a crisis for the first time.
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in half of people with epilepsy. In the other half, the condition can be attributed to various factors:
Genetic causes: about 40% of epileptics have a genetic form.
Causes acquired: brain tumor, congenital malformation, brain injury, trauma.
Vascular causes: ischemic or haemorrhagic stroke, cerebral malformation, head trauma, stroke, progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Infectious causes: encephalitis, meningitis, brain abscess.
Toxic causes: a high dose of alcohol, chronic alcoholism as well as weaning, drugs like cocaine or amphetamine, antidepressants (overconsumption, overdose or withdrawal).
Some factors may increase the risk of epilepsy:
Age: It is more common in children and the elderly, but the disease can occur at any age.
Genetics: If you have a family history of epilepsy, you have more risk of developing this disorder.
Injuries to the head: they are responsible for some cases of epilepsy. You can reduce the risks by following the safety rules during risky activity such as wearing a helmet for a bike or motorcycle ride, seatbelt when you’re driving …
Stroke and other vascular diseases. Strokes and other vascular diseases can lead to brain damage that can trigger epilepsy.
Dementia. It can increase the risk of epilepsy in the elderly.
Brain infections. Infections such as meningitis, which causes inflammation in the brain or spinal cord, can increase your risk.