Epilepsy: Definition, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

What is epilepsy and how can this neuropathology be treated?

Of all the neurological diseases that can affect the human brain, few are as relevant as epilepsy.  

It is a disorder that affects about 50 million people around the world (according to WHO data), it is chronic and it is also one of the brain diseases that produces the highest number of deaths. On the other hand, after strokes and dementias, epilepsy is the most common brain disease.

This is why both  clinical psychology and  neuroscience and  psychiatry are making many efforts to understand what epilepsy is and how it works.

What is epilepsy?

The term epilepsy is used to designate a disorder in which imbalances in the functioning of the brain cause the so-called epileptic seizures to appear. These crises are episodes in which large groups of neurons begin to emit electrical discharge in an abnormal way, causing the person to lose control of their actions and part or all of consciousness.

Episodes of this type can last seconds or minutes, and appear unexpectedly regardless of the context in which the person is. Therefore, what triggers these crises has more to do with the internal dynamics of the nervous system’s functioning than with what happens around the person, although one thing cannot be totally separated from the other.

Seizures in epileptic seizures

In most cases, during epileptic seizures the person not only loses control over what he is doing, but also suffers seizures, that is, many muscles in his body begin to contract and distend at the same time and repeatedly , causing tremors.

However, neither this is a symptom that defines epilepsy in all its forms (because it can also occur without seizures appearing) nor does it have to do only with this disease, since it is possible to experience a seizure episode with seizures without having epilepsy. .

To learn more about what happens in the brain when you experience seizures, you can read this article.

Causes of this disorder

The causes of epilepsy are only known at a relatively superficial level, that is, it is only known that they occur when a large number of neurons begin to fire signals at the same time and abnormally, although the details of the processes are unknown biochemicals that trigger these types of processes.

That is why, more than knowing the why of epileptic seizures, we know the how of them, which serves to describe them without going into detail. Among the factors that seem to be associated with the appearance of epilepsy are:

  • Brain tumors.
  • Head trauma that leaves sequelae.
  • Cardiovascular accidents that damage parts of the brain.
  • Congenital or genetic brain malformations.
  • Meningitis or encephalitis.

These are, then, problems that affect an individual brain, and not contagious diseases, from which it follows that epilepsy cannot be contagious or contagious.

Furthermore, when considering the causes of epilepsy, it should be noted that individual differences play a very important role in epilepsy, since  each brain is unique. In the same way, there is also great variability in the forms that epilepsy can take, a fact that raises the debate as to whether there will be, other than a disease called epilepsy, several types of epilepsy with little relation to each other.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Epilepsy is produced by an abnormal activation pattern of  groups of neurons, and therefore to diagnose it you have to see precisely how the person’s brain works in real time. To achieve this, specialists in the field of neurology will use technologies to read the activity of the brain (such as encephalography or EEG) to see how certain parts of the brain are activated.

As even in the case of experiencing epilepsy, brain activity can be apparently normal at times when epileptic seizures do not occur, in many cases it will be necessary to wear a device for a few days that will send signals about the neuronal activation patterns that detects.

In addition to this, the health examination may include many other tests, such as lumbar puncture or blood and urine tests, depending on each case.

Possible treatments

As epilepsy is a neurological disease that affects all areas of a person’s life, it is very common for the treatments used against it to be invasive. In addition to  psychotherapeutic care, they are used to using treatments based on  psychotropic drugs and other medicines.

On many occasions, after testing the efficacy of anticonvulsants, surgery may be recommended to isolate or destroy the area of ​​the brain from which epileptic seizures are triggered, or to introduce a device called Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) into the brain. ) that reduces the frequency of seizures.

It should be borne in mind, however, that in many cases epileptic seizures will never completely disappear, and the intensity and frequency of the seizures can only be reduced.

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