Epilepsy or seizure is a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. Epilepsy drugs are prescribed to control seizures, and rarely surgery is necessary if medications are ineffective.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy or seizure occurs as a result of abnormal electrical activity originating in the brain. Brain cells communicate by sending electrical signals in an orderly pattern. In epilepsy, these electrical signals become abnormal, giving rise to an "electrical storm" that produces seizures. These storms may be within a specific part of the brain or be generalized, depending on the type of epilepsy.
Most common types of seizures:
- Grand Mal or Generalized tonic-clonic. The most common and dramatic. In this type, the patient loses consciousness and usually collapses. The loss of consciousness is followed by generalized body stiffening (called the "tonic" phase of the seizure) for 30 to 60 seconds, then by violent jerking (the "clonic" phase) for 30 to 60 seconds, after which the patient goes into a deep sleep (the "postictal" or after-seizure phase). During grand-mal seizures, injuries and accidents may occur, such as tongue biting and urinary incontinence.
- Absence seizures cause a short loss of consciousness with few or no symptoms. The patient, most often a child, typically interrupts an activity and stares blankly. These seizures begin and end abruptly and may occur several times a day. Patients are usually not aware that they are having a seizure, except that they may be aware of "losing time."
- Myoclonic seizures consist of sporadic jerks, usually on both sides of the body. Patients sometimes describe the jerks as brief electrical shocks. When violent, these seizures may result in dropping or involuntarily throwing objects.
- Clonic seizures are repetitive, rhythmic jerks that involve both sides of the body at the same time.
- Tonic seizures are characterized by stiffening of the muscles.
- Atonic seizures consist of a sudden and general loss of muscle tone, particularly in the arms and legs, which often results in a fall.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Classic medications used to treat epilepsy include: Phenytoin, Phenobarbital, Carbamazepine, Lamotrigine, Levetiracetam, Divalproex sodium, Topiramate, Oxcarbazepine, Gabapentin, Magnesium sulfate, Tranquilizers, and etc.
Treatment and Management
Treatment may depend on several factors, including the frequency and severity of the seizures, as well as the person's age, overall health, and medical history.
Things to do if someone is having a seizure:
Loosen clothing around the person's neck.
Do not try to hold the person down or restrain him or her, this can result in injury.
Do not insert any objects in the person's mouth; this can also cause injury.
Reassure concerned bystanders who may be upset and ask them to give the person room.
Remove sharp objects (glasses, furniture, and other objects) from around the person to prevent injury.
After the seizure, it is helpful to lay the person on his or her side to maintain an open airway and prevent the person from inhaling any secretions.
After a seizure, the person may be confused and should not be left alone.