One seizure episode does not mean a person has epilepsy. When seizures occur frequently and become a consistent problem, however, the condition is called epilepsy. You can have a seizure without epilepsy, but you can’t have epilepsy without seizures.
Convulsions are a type of seizure that involves involuntary shaking and stiffening of the entire body. This means all convulsions are seizures but not all seizures are convulsions.
What causes seizures?
Seizures occur when the electrical activities in the brain turn abnormal and irregular. Everyone has a 10% chance of developing seizures in their lifetime, but that risk increases with a stroke or brain injury.
Seizures can be epileptic or nonepileptic. Causes of nonepileptic seizures include:
What causes epilepsy?
Epilepsy can be caused by:
- Head trauma
- Brain damage at birth
- Hypoxic brain damage (brain damage due to insufficient oxygen)
- Brain tumor
- Recreational drug use or withdrawal
- Alcohol use or withdrawal
- Brain infections
- Metabolic conditions due to defective genes
Sometimes, epilepsy may be idiopathic, which means there is no identifiable cause.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
If a person has epilepsy, they may have a constellation of symptoms called aura before epilepsy. This includes changes to thoughts, senses, or awareness. They may experience visual disturbances, strange smells, ringing or buzzing sounds, or anxiety.
Different types of seizures in epilepsy have different symptoms, which may include:
How are seizures treated?
A seizure episode is a medical emergency that may be treated with an intramuscular injection of midazolam (or any other suitable benzodiazepine) or even a nasal spray containing midazolam.
This will be followed by supportive measures that will try to prevent further seizures by controlling, stopping, or reducing the frequency of the episodes. Medications may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause. The choice of medication and treatment will be based on factors such as:
- Type of seizure
- Any potential side effects
These must be supplemented with certain lifestyle modifications.
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What to do if someone has a seizure
Seizures need urgent medical care. If you notice someone experiencing a seizure, take the following steps:
- Do not panic and stay calm
- Take the person away from an environment that is likely to injure them
- Place a pillow or a rolled cloth under the person’s head
- Make the person lie on their side to prevent suffocation
- Do not put anything in the person’s mouth
How is epilepsy treated?
The doctor will first diagnose the type of epilepsy before initiating treatment. Treatment will also depend on:
- Frequency and severity of the seizures
- Overall health
- Medical history
Drug therapy is the primary treatment in most cases of epilepsy. The drugs prescribed depend on the type of seizures as well as the patient’s response. Many times, multiple drugs may be prescribed to control the episodes. Dietary changes may help as well. It’s important to avoid bright lights, sleep deprivation, and extreme stress.
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