Most people with epilepsy are otherwise healthy; as long as it is controlled like most other diseases. A seizure is a physical manifestation of paroxysmal and abnormal electrical firing of neurons in the brain. Think of it as numerous voltage (hyperexcitability of neurons) going throughout the brain meaning brain waves going in all directions with the brain saying its too much activity going through my organ and can’t think normally; instead the brain goes through a shock. In simpler terms the brain is getting too much brain wave excitability for the organ to register in what to do causing the brain to go into a seizure.
When the seizure occurs there is a decrease in oxygen since the brain isn’t capable to send messages during the seizure. The problem it too much electrical stimulation is happening in the brain causing the type of seizure to come on. If the seizure continues to repeat one right after another the person is in status epilepticus and if the seizures do not stop the person can lead to a neuronal death; like John Travolta’s son who died of this for example.
The term seizure disorder may refer to any number of conditions that result in such a paroxysmal electrical discharge. These conditions could be metabolic or structural in nature.
For example, if a metabolic condition this could be “Canavan disease” which is primarily a disease of demyelination. Your myelin sheath that protects and insulates the nerves is being destroyed and can cause a seizure as one of the symptoms.
*Another example being metabolic is thought to be caused by brain acetate deficiency resulting from a defect of N–acetylaspartic acid (NAA) catabolism (meaning breakdown is occurring). Accumulation of NAA, a compound thought to be responsible for maintaining cerebral fluid balance, can lead to cerebral edema and neurological injury, like a seizure as one symptoms of the disease.
*A structural condition to cause a seizure could be a tumor in the brain. Than there is just idiopathic, unknown cause for the epilepsy which if starts in childhood can resolve by the child growing out it, like in petite mal seizures but it not it goes into motor/focal or grand mal that is permanent the individual needs Rx for life.
Remember, not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Other conditions that can look like epilepsy include fainting, or very low blood sugar in some people being treated for diabetes.
Remember, etiology (the cause) of Epilepsy can be generally a sign of underlying pathology involving the brain–knowing the cause. To find this out diagnostic tooling be a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy is the best resource to go to. The epilepsy may be the first sign of a nervous system disease (ex. Brain tumor), or it may be a sign of a systemic or metabolic derangement. Where the treatment may be able to resolve the seizure symptom completely where this wasn’t a seizure disorder or epilepsy but just a symptom due to another disorder that may be 100% cured, like a operable tumor removed surgically from the brain.
Metabolic and Systemic Causes of Seizures:
a.) Electrolyte Imbalance=In the blood having acidosis, heavy metal poisoning, Hypocalcemia (low Ca+) , Hypocapnea (low carbon dioxide), Hypoglycemia (low glucose), Hypoxia (low oxygen), Sodium-Potassium imbalance, and than Systemic diseases (liver, renal failure, etc…). Then their is also toxemia of pregnancy, and water intoxication.
b.) Infections like meningitis, encephalitis, brain abcess. Structural changes due to genetic conditions such as tuberous sclerosis, or neurofibromatosis, which can cause growths affecting the brain.
c.) Withdrawal of sedative-hypnotic drugs=Alcohol, Antiepileptic drugs, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines.
d.) Iatrogenic drug overdose=Theopylline, Penicillin.
e.) Other causes of epilepsy can be Trauma, Heredity.
Structural causes of epilepsy:
Head trauma/Degenerative Disease like Alzheimer’s or Creutfeldz-Jacob or Huntington’s Chorea or Multiple Sclerosis or Pick’s Disease. There is also tumors or genetic disease or Stroke or Infections or Febrile seizures.
Different epilepsies are due to many different underlying causes. The causes can be complex, and sometimes hard to identify. A person might start having seizures because they have one or more of the following.
- A genetic tendency, passed down from one or both parents (inherited).
- A genetic tendency that is not inherited, but is a new change in the person’s genes.
- A structural (sometimes called ‘symptomatic’) change in the brain, such as the brain not developing properly.
- A stroke or a tumour. A brain scan, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), may show this.
Tuberous sclerosis – a genetic condition that causes growths in organs including the brain. Tuberous sclerosis can cause epilepsy.
Neurofibromatosis – a genetic condition that causes benign tumours to grow on the covering of nerves. Neurofibromatosis can cause epilepsy.
Some researchers now believe that the chance of developing epilepsy is probably always genetic to some extent, in that any person who starts having seizures has always had some level of genetic likelihood to do so. This level can range from high to low and anywhere in between.
Even if seizures start after a brain injury or other structural change, this may be due to both the structural change and the person’s genetic tendency to seizures, combined. This makes sense if we consider that many people might have a similar brain injury, but not all of them develop epilepsy afterwards.
Facts and Statistics on Seizures:
- Most seizures happen suddenly without warning, last a short time (a few seconds or minutes) and stop by themselves.
- Seizures can be different for each person.
- Just knowing that someone has epilepsy does not tell you what their epilepsy is like, or what seizures they have.
- Calling seizures ‘major’ or ‘minor’ does not tell you what happens to the person during the seizure. The names of seizures used on this page describe what happens during the seizure.
- Some people have more than one type of seizure, or their seizures may not fit clearly into the types described on this page. But even if someone’s seizures are unique, they usually follow the same pattern each time they happen.
- Not all seizures involve convulsions (jerking or shaking movements). Some people seem vacant, wander around or are confused during a seizure.
- Some people have seizures when they are awake, called ‘awake seizures’. Some people have seizures while they are asleep, called ‘asleep seizures’ (or ‘nocturnal seizures’). The names ‘awake’ and ‘asleep’ do not explain the type of seizures, only when they happen.
- Injuries can happen during seizures, but many people don’t hurt themselves and don’t need to go to hospital or see a doctor.
Check out Part II tomorrow!