Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
A seizure is a neurological symptom of another condition that affects the central nervous system. During a seizure, nerve cell activity within the brain becomes disrupted. Seizures are typically the hallmark symptom of epilepsy (frequently interchanged with the term seizure disorders).
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Symptoms of an epileptic seizure may vary depending on the type of seizure occurring, and may include:
- Loss of awareness or consciousness
- Momentary confusion
- Psychic symptoms, triggered emotions or previous experiences that may result in feeling anxious or frightened
- Staring spells
- Uncontrolled jerking movements of the limbs that occur suddenly
Causes of Epilepsy
There is no apparent cause in roughly half of patients who live with the condition. In the other half, the cause has been linked to a variety of factors.
- Certain infectious diseases, such as viral encephalitis, meningitis or AIDS
- Brain disorders, such as stroke or brain tumors
- Brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident (MVA) or other type of accident
- Genetics. Certain types of epilepsy tend to run in families
- Prenatal injury, including poor nutrition, oxygen deficiencies or an infection
Types of Epileptic Seizures
Focal (Partial) Seizures
This type of seizure is due to abnormal activity in one section of the brain, and falls into two categories:
Focal Seizures Without Loss of Consciousness
Focal seizures without losing consciousness may change emotions in patients or the way things look, feel, taste, smell or sound to them. These seizures may also cause sudden jerking movements and sensations including flashing lights.
Focal Dyscognitive Seizures
With focal dyscognitive seizures—also known as complex partial seizures—patients may stare into space and not respond to what’s around them. They may also make random repetitive movements, such as chewing or swallowing.
It should be noted that symptoms of focal seizures may mimic other neurological disorders, such as a migraine or narcolepsy.
Generalized seizures are seizures that seem to involve all sections of the brain.
Types of generalized seizures include:
Formerly known as petit mal seizures, these seizures typically occur in children and are defined by the symptoms of staring into space or subtle body movements such as lip smacking or blinking. Absence seizures can happen in clusters and may cause temporary loss of awareness.
Also known as drop seizures, this type causes loss of muscle control. As a result, patients may suddenly collapse or fall to the ground.
These are associated with jerking, rhythmic muscle spasms, usually in the face, neck or arms.
Myoclonic seizures typically involve sudden, brief jerking or twitching movements in the limbs.
This type of seizure causes the muscles in the back, arms and legs to become rigid. Patients may fall during a tonic seizure.
Tonic-clonic seizures—formerly known as grand mal seizures—may cause dramatic symptoms including sudden loss of consciousness, body shaking and rigidity, loss of bladder control or tongue biting.
There are a variety of diagnostic tests to confirm an epilepsy diagnosis, including:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Neuropsychological tests
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
Treatments for Epilepsy
Typically, epilepsy is successfully treated with medication and regular follow-up appointments with a physician to monitor the condition. In some cases, surgery may be required to effectively manage symptoms when medications have failed.
For more information or to schedule testing or monitoring, contact United Neuro Diagnostic Services today.