Tuesday, July 5

Epilepsy: is it possible to lead a normal life despite the disease?

The epilepsy is a medical condition that affects the brain and causes seizures, which occur when electrical activity in the brain is interrupted, leading to a change in a person’s movement, behavior, level of consciousness, and feelings.

epilepsy, whose most visible symptoms and known are the fall of the person to the ground, the loss of consciousness and convulsions throughout the body, it appears regardless of age, sex or environment, it can develop at any stage of life, although it is more common in children, adolescents and people over 60 years of age.

It is important to divulge and publicize some of the main peculiarities of this disease, as unknown as it is stigmatized. For this reason, and taking advantage of the May 24 is National Epilepsy Day.we take the opportunity to explain what it is and how to act in the event of an epileptic crisis.

What is behind the seizures?

During a seizure, neurons fail and they send an abnormally large and rapid surge of electrical signals to the brain. These are very complex neurological events with numerous possible causes. They can also be difficult to identify because they typically last a few seconds to a few minutes.

Some are even so subtle that you may not recognize them. Despite the difficulty of diagnosis, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) tells us that some 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide, making it one of the most common neurological disorders.

In Spain, the prevalence it is located between 0.7% and 0.8% of the total populationwhich translates into 320,000 and 368,000 people, of which some 29,000 are under 15 years of age.

There is 29 different types of seizures, according to the International League Against Epilepsy. It is a classification that dates back to 1981, so work is being done to create a new one more in line with what is currently known. Broadly speaking, these types fall into two categories, depending on where they start in the brain:

  • focal seizures: is an alteration in a specific part of the brain. About 60% of seizures fall into this category.
  • generalized seizures: affect the whole brain.

The common denominator of epileptic seizures is that they last just a few seconds or minutes after which the brain returns to normal function. Some people may recover faster than others depending on the crisis. The diagnosis arrives, in most cases, when at least two unprovoked crises have been suffered.

How to act before an epileptic crisis

Not all people who have epilepsy experience it the same way. For some, it may not have much of an impact on their life. But others may experience physical, psychological and social impacts and, consequently, affect education, work, lifestyle, health, and social and family life.

The unknown and the uncertainty of when and how there will be a new seizure is what usually generates the most frustration. Therefore, it is very important to know how should we act in a seizure:

  • The first thing is keep calm and take the person to a quiet place.
  • protect the head to avoid head injuries, with a coat or jacket, something soft under the head.
  • Release the neck areaundoing the buttons of a shirt or any other type of clothing that the person may wear.
  • Place the person on their sidelittle by little, to prevent the airways from being obstructed and, in case of vomiting, to prevent it from going into the lungs.
  • Check the pulse and respiratory rate until medical services arrive. It is important that the person who stays next to you controls the duration of the crisis and how it has been in order to inform the doctor.

On the contrary, we should not try to hold the person or put any object in their mouth. In most cases, crises are self-limited, that is, they end spontaneously.

How is epilepsy controlled?

The medication it is the first line of treatment to limit the number and duration of seizures. It is estimated that about 70% of people will manage to control their epilepsy with antiepileptic drugs because the causes can be eliminated and, therefore, the seizures can be controlled.

For the remaining 30%, their epilepsy is considered “uncontrolled” or “drug resistant” for which alternative options are needed, such as neurosurgery or vagus nerve stimulation to reduce or eliminate seizure activity.

It also raises the ketogenic diet to help control some complicated cases during childhood. As we explained in this article, it is a meal plan that causes a chemical change in the body and is based on the consumption of a high level of fat, few proteins and almost no carbohydrates.

In addition to all these factors, there are other Actions that can help control crises such as:

  • Take the medication as directed by the doctor.
  • Sleep the necessary hours to have a good rest.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Reduce stress level.
  • Perform physical exercise on a regular basis.

Epilepsy in women, more complex than in men

Although epilepsy can affect men and women equally, it is women who face unique challenges that stand in the way of their reproductive health. These challenges focus primarily on the effects of hormones on seizure controlof medicines in reproductive health and contraceptive options.

The frequency and severity of seizures can change at puberty, during the menstrual cycle, with pregnancy, and at menopause. For example, women can suffer from a subtype of epilepsy called catamenialin which the seizures are clustered around the menstrual cycle, meaning you are more likely to have a seizure while the body is ovulating or in the first few days of menstruation.

It should also be noted that there are a number of anti-seizure medications that prevent birth control pills from working as they should, which can lead to an unplanned pregnancy. It is important to consult with the doctor about the best contraceptive method depending on the type of epilepsy and the drugs that are taken.

Antiepileptic drugs can also worsen osteoporosis. This, added to menopause, increases the risk of suffering from this pathology that affects the bones and makes them more fragile. Occasionally, some hormonal compounds that improve bones can interfere with antiepileptic treatment, which means that both pathologies must be taken into account before establishing a treatment.

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