Epilepsy or Fits: What it is, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Epilepsy is a state well-known for centuries. Maybe you know it by its more popular name, ‘fits.’ No matter what title you use, epilepsy is a condition that impairs the lives of millions of people all over the world. It is one of the most common neurological disorders. It is calculated that 2% of the world population is affected by seizures, with men being more likely to have epilepsy than women.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition marked by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This unusual electrical activity results in fits or convulsions. The most recognizable type of seizure is when the person experiences violent and rapid jerking movements of the body. However, many other kinds of convulsions or fits do not look like this and may sometimes be so fast or so small that even the patient does not notice them. Convulsions can vary and are separate from person to person and sometimes change in the same person at different times.

Epilepsy can strike anyone at any point in their lives. Contrary to popular belief, epilepsy does not imply that an individual is mentally comprised or incapable. A fit or seizure generally lasts for less than sixty seconds. If an individual has a seizure for more than 5 minutes or remains unconscious for a prolonged period after the fit has stopped, call for an ambulance immediately.

How is Epilepsy Diagnosed

For an epilepsy diagnosis, an individual must experience two or more seizures (unprovoked). For an episode to be called unprovoked, there should be no detectable or environmental cause of the episode, such as hypoxia, overdose, infections, etc. A neurologist will properly diagnose epilepsy based on a careful medical examination and medical history. It is essential to be as honest as possible about symptoms to receive a correct diagnosis.

A neurological examination is the best way to test for the sensory, motor, mental functions, balance, and other higher brain functions. A doctor may also ask for specific blood tests to paint a more precise picture of the situation and rule out other ailments. Neurophysiological tests such as an EEG (electroencephalogram) and imaging tests such as MRI help diagnose convulsions and epilepsy.

An EEG (electroencephalogram) records the electrical activity of the brain. Metal plates covered with a conductive gel are installed over the scalp, and these calculate the electrical potentials produced by neurons in the brain. This is a simple procedure that can provide important insights into the functioning of the mind. This is the most popular used test for epilepsy. If an individual experience fits, an electrical disturbance in the brain can be detected with an EEG. By studying the types and patterns of abnormalities seen in the EEG, a specialist can conclude the type of epilepsy. This will cover further prognosis and treatment for the patient.

Imaging tests like MRI and CT help in visualizing the brain structure. This helps in detecting any structural abnormalities or damage that may be causing the fits.

Treatment Of Epilepsy And Convulsions

Once epilepsy has been confirmed, an individual may have to take medication every day. The frequency and kind of medication depend on the person, their doctor, and their condition. Medications used to treat seizures are called anticonvulsants. They are also called anti-seizure drugs or anti-epileptic medications. Finding the correct anti-epileptic can be a long and drawn-out process. Some people may even need more anticonvulsants or may require additional medicines apart from anticonvulsants. Remember to be patient; health can be a strenuous journey.

Some people may not react to medications. In such cases, professionals may recommend other treatment modalities such as novel therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and surgery. Surgery for epilepsy is not as dangerous as it sounds. It is grounded in sound scientific and medical work. Epilepsy surgery is usually prescribed to people with focal seizures (a single, clear, defined area of irregular electrical discharges), which are not controlled by sufficient drug therapy. The aim of surgery is a total cessation of convulsions.

In people who are not applicants for surgery, newer neurostimulation techniques like TMS can be worked. 

Other ways to reduce and control the severity of seizures is eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, exercising, following a diet, overcoming stress, and other lifestyle adjustments.

Epilepsy is not as scary as it is projected. It can disrupt everyday life, but with correct treatment after diagnosis, an individual with epilepsy can live a safe, satisfying, and full life. Epilepsy may not always be wholly curable, but it can be controlled. Don’t be scared of a diagnosis; it is the first step in a walk towards better health.

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