What is Epilepsy?
The term ‘epilepsy’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to take hold of’â€”hence the use of ‘seizure’ to describe its effects. Epilepsy may also be looked upon as a tendency to have repeated seizure. The seizures are an outward, visible sign that a part of the brain is not working as it should. Its activity of transmitting and receiving electrical and chemical messages becomes disrupted.
The neurons (nerve cells) that carry messages around to different parts of the brain send them in a different order, or too strongly (excessive discharge). This results in the child having a seizure. The way in which a seizure affects what someone says, does or feel depends on where in the brain the problem is and how far the disruption spreads. A seizure can start by affecting one part of the brain and then spread to another part or even go on to affect the whole brain. This is why people can experience different types of seizure, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes.
Having epilepsy does not mean you are mentally ill or automatically have difficulties in learning, or have to take medicines for the rest of your life. Nor does it mean that if epilepsy happens in childhood it will stay with the child into adulthood. A substantial number of children grow out of their seizures as they enter adulthood; others may not encounter epilepsy until adolescence. Having epilepsy does not necessarily mean the child cannot live the way his or her friends live, or share in the same activities. Support arrangements may be needed in order for this to happen.
While living with epilepsy is not easy, we actively encourage those involved with the child, and indeed the children themselves, do develop a positive attitude to their condition—looking at what it enables them to participate in and taking control of it, rather than viewing it as an illness or disabling condition that will blight the rest of their lives.
Parents often ask why their child has epilepsy and seem surprised when the doctor cannot given them a definite answer. This is because despite having carried out a range of diagnostic tests, which may include blood tests and brain scans of various kinds, taken a careful case history and looked at the electrical activity in the child’s brain with an EEG (electroencephalogram), in up to 75% of question. Children with this type of epilepsy are often described as having idiopathic epilepsiesâ€”where the cause is not known.
Most common causes of epilepsy
- An infection in the brain, e.g. meningitis or encephalitis
- Head injury
- If the brain is starved of oxygen, e.g. before or at birth
- Part of a metabolic disorder
- The way the child’s brain developed before birth
- Recreational drugs or alcohol
- Brain tumors
- Part of an inherited condition, e.g. tuberous sclerosis, Rettsyndrome, Angelman syndrome, Sturge-Weber syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, neurofibromatosis and Down’s syndrome. (These syndromes all have websites where you can access more detailed and up to date information on the specific aspects.)
At least 10% of children have a positive family history of seizure occurring with fever under the age of 5 years (febrile convulsion). However, the presence of such seizures (or convulsions) does not mean the child will necessarily go on to develop full- blown epilepsy.
(Gill Parkinson, Mike Johnson: Epilepsy; 2006; 2-4)
Symptoms of epilepsy
- Convulsion without fever
- Intermittent fainting spells
- Loss of bladder and bowel control during fainting spells
- Extreme weakness and fatigue after attack
- Sudden stiffness
- Confusion of memory
- Sudden bouts of blinking and chewing without any obvious cause or stimuli
- Changes in sense of smell, touch and sound
- Jerking of body, arms and legs.
Diagnosis of epilepsy
Age of onset – (A) infancy – metabolic disturbances associated with febrile illness, epilepsy, congenital diplegia, congenital hemiplagia and cerebral damage resulting from birth injury.
(B) Childhood – any of the congenital or acquired lesions above mentioned. Idiopathic epilepsy, encephalitis.
(C) Adult life – idiopathic epilepsy rarely begins after age of 25. Penetrating head injury involving meninges, intracranial tumor, cysticercosis.
(D) After 50 – epilepsy most often due to cerebral arteriosclerosis. Other causes SUCH AS Stokes-Adams attacks, and spontaneous hypoglycemia.
Description of fit from witness or family
Circumstances under which fit occurs
Family history – fits which cause sudden loss of conscious with falling, followed by some confusion should be classified as grand mal
History of febrile convulsions in children
- Presence of neurological signs (e.g. dysphasia, hemiparesis, field defect , may localize a structural lesion.
- Learning disability may suggest a chromosomal disorder.
- Progressive features (e.g. dementia, ataxia) suggest a neurodegenerative disease
- A cardiovascular examination is essential. The pupils may dilate during seizure.
Confirming the diagnosis
- EEG – is of value in establishing the diagnosis of epilepsy and an aid in determining the type of seizure.
- EEG telemetry – in the form of ambulatory recording or video telemetry may be necessary if diagnosis is in doubt despite apparently frequent seizure.
- Further investigations – may be necessary. Hypoglycemia needs to be ruled out, particularly in patient6 with early morning seizures.
- Investigating the cause – MRI provides reliable diagnosis of hippocampal sclerosis, cortical dysgenesis and small foreign tissue lesions.
Epilepsy treatment entirely depends upon cause and medical condition.
Epilepsy treatment with homeopathy – Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach.
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