Epilepsy is a disease that affects the nerve cells of the brain. Epilepsy causes these brain nerve cells to release abnormal electrical impulses on occasion. Epilepsy is often referred to as a seizure disorder. Most often cause of epilepsy is unknown; however, epilepsy can be linked to a head injury or a genetic/family trait. Not all seizures are the result of epilepsy. In fact, seizures can result from other medical conditions such as low blood sugar.
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that usually affects how a person feels and acts for a short period of time. Seizures are just one of the symptoms that can result form diseases such as epilepsy. In the majority of cases, seizures go unnoticed or are very difficult to detect by those present during a seizure. However, seizures can be violent and very noticeable. Epilepsy does not indicate the degree or severity of a seizure; it only indicates a disease or condition that reveals itself through symptoms such as seizures. Consider the following tests and instruments used in the proper diagnosis of epilepsy:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
Consider the following stages of a seizure:
- Aura – a warning before a seizure; a simplepartial seizure occurring within seconds before a complex partial or secondarily generalized tonic-clonic seizure.
- Simple Partial Seizure – an epileptic seizure that involves only part of the brain and does not impair consciousness.
- Complex Partial Seizure – An epileptic seizure that involves only part of the brain and impairs consciousness; often preceded by a simple partial seizure and or aura
- Tonic Seizure – an epileptic seizure that causes stiffening usually while maintaining consciousness.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizure – is a newer term for convulsion, grand mal seizure, or major motor seizure. This stage or type of seizure is characterized by loss of consciousness, falling, stiffening, and jerking.
For the most part seizures will cause no permanent or long-lasting damage depending on the cause of the seizure (i.e. stroke); however, if a seizure last in excess of 30 minutes, you should consider it to be a medical emergency. Long-lasting convulsive seizures can result in death if left untreated. For the most part, seizures are hardly ever fatal, even if consciousness is lost.
Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is very rare. Normally, SUDEP occurs in young to middle-aged people suffering from epilepsy die without a clear and identifiable cause. SUDEP is very rare and almost nonexistent in children.