Epilepsy: definition, causes, diagnosis and treatment

Of all the neurological diseases that can affect the human brain, few are as relevant as the epilepsy.

It is a disorder that affects approximately 50 million people worldwide (According to WHO data) it is chronic and is also one of the brain diseases that causes the highest number of deaths. In contrast, after stroke and dementia, epilepsy is the most common brain disease.

This is why both clinical psychology and neuroscience and psychiatry go to great lengths to understand what epilepsy is and how it works.

What is epilepsy?

The term epilepsy is used to denote a disorder in which imbalances in the functioning of the brain cause the appearance of so-called epileptic seizures. These seizures are episodes in which large groups of neurons start to emit electric shocks abnormally, causing the person to lose control of their actions and all or part of their consciousness.

Episodes of this type can last a few seconds or minutes and appear unexpectedly regardless of the context the person is in. Therefore, what triggers these seizures has more to do with the internal dynamics of how the nervous system works than with what is happening around the person, While one thing cannot be completely detached from the other.

Seizures in epileptic seizures

In most cases, during epileptic seizures, the person not only loses control of what they are doing, but also suffers from seizures, that is, many muscles in his body start to contract and relax all at once and repeatedly, causing tremors.

However, it is not a defining symptom of epilepsy in all its forms (as it can also occur without seizures) and it does not have to do only with this disease, as it is possible to experience a seizure episode. . With convulsions without having epilepsy.

To learn more about what happens to the brain when you have seizures, you can read this article.

Causes of this disorder

The causes of epilepsy are only known at a relatively superficial levelThat is, they only occur when a large number of neurons start triggering signals both and abnormally, although the details of the biochemical processes that trigger such processes are unknown.

That’s why, rather than knowing the why of epileptic seizures, we know how, what it serves to describe – without going into detail. Some of the factors that appear to be associated with the onset of epilepsy include:

  • Brain tumors.
  • Cranioencephalic trauma which leaves sequelae.
  • Cardiovascular events that damage parts of the brain.
  • Congenital or genetic brain malformations.
  • Meningitis or encephalitis.

These are therefore problems that affect an individual brain, and not contagious diseases, from which it follows that epilepsy cannot be infected or infected.

In addition, when considering the causes of epilepsy, it should be noted that individual differences play a very important role in epilepsy, Since each brain is unique. Likewise, there is also a great deal of variability in the forms epilepsy can take, giving rise to a debate as to whether there will be, rather than a condition called epilepsy, various types of epilepsy. with little relation to each other.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Epilepsy is caused by an abnormal pattern of activation of groups of neurons and, therefore, to diagnose it is necessary to see precisely how a person’s brain works in real time. To achieve this, specialists in the field of neurology will use brain activity reading technologies (such as encephalography or EEG) to see how certain parts of the brain are activated.

As even with epilepsy, brain activity may appear normal at times when epileptic seizures are not occurring, in many cases it will be necessary to carry a device for a few days that will send signals about the neural activation patterns it detects.

In addition to this, the health examination may include many other tests, such as a lumbar puncture or blood and urine tests, depending on each case.

possible treatments

Since epilepsy is a neurological disease that affects all areas of a person’s life, it is very common for the treatments used against it to be invasive. In addition to psychotherapeutic care, treatments based on psychotropic drugs and other drugs are commonly used.

In many cases, after testing the effectiveness of anticonvulsants, surgery may be recommended to isolate or destroy the area of ​​the brain from which epileptic seizures are triggered, or to introduce a device called a Stimulator into the brain. of the Nerve Wave (ENV) which reduces the frequency of onset of seizures.

However, it should be borne in mind that in many cases, epileptic seizures will never go away completely, And only the intensity and frequency of epileptic seizures can be reduced.

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