Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that affects over 65 million people all over the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe epilepsy as “a common neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures.”
The seizures in epilepsy can be due to a brain injury or can be genetic, but often the cause is completely unknown. Such seizures are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. Anyone can develop epilepsy, however, epilepsy and seizures are most likely to appear in children under 2 years of age or adults over 65 years. Other factors that increase the risk include:
- Strokes or tumours
- Developmental disorders, for example, autism or neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder that affects the development of nerve cell tissues)
- Brain malformation or brain injury, for instance, due to a car crash, gunshot wound, etc.
- For seniors, Alzheimer’s and other brain trauma can also be the reason for seizures.
- Infections of the brain
- A structural change in the brain, such as the brain not developing properly.
- Prenatal injuries in case of babies before their birth increases the risk of epilepsy due to factors like poor nutrition, oxygen deficiencies, etc.
After you are diagnosed with epilepsy there are several options for you to get treated. They are as follows:
- Medication: Anti-seizure medications can control the seizures in about 70% of the patients. Drugs that work for one patient might not work for the other. The kind of medication your doctor prescribes for you depends on your type of seizures, the frequency, your age, and other medical conditions.
- Surgery: When medications fail to provide adequate control over seizures, the next option that the doctors may suggest is an epilepsy surgery. Of the 30% of the patients whose seizures cannot be controlled with seizure medication, not all the cases may be candidates for a surgery. The surgery can only be an option when the part of the brain causing the seizures is very small and does not affect your cognitive skills.
- Therapies: Apart from medications and surgeries, there are some other effective therapies that may be used to treat a patient diagnosed with epilepsy. They are:
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation: For this treatment, the doctor implants a pacemaker-like device in your body to stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your torso.
- Ketogenic Diet: This is a special diet which is high in fats and low in carbohydrates and is usually recommended to children under the close supervision of the doctors to make them seizure-free.