A Complete Guide To Epilepsy : Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

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Epilepsy is a severe disorder that causes repeated and unprovoked seizures. A seizure is an unexpected surge of electrical activity that happens in the brain. Two major kinds of seizures impact the brain. Where generalized seizures impact the entire region of the brain, partial or focal seizures impact only a specific region of the brain.

Based on the intensity of the seizure, they are classified into two categories like mild seizure and stronger seizure.

1. A mild seizure is hard to recognize as it occurs for a short duration and the person generally lacks awareness during that time.
2. A stronger seizure is intense and severe. It causes an uncontrollable muscle twitch that can continue for a few minutes. During that time a person loses clarity, awareness and control of himself. Later when the seizure over, he doesn’t even remember what had happened in the past few minutes.

Few Important Facts About Epilepsy

  • As of now, around sixty-five million people are suffering from epilepsy throughout the world. Around 150,000 fresh cases of epilepsy are identified each year.
  • There are about five hundred genes that contribute to epilepsy in some way. The chances of epilepsy before the age of twenty years is about one percent. If the parents of a person are suffering from epilepsy, then the possibilities of the development of this disease increases by two to five percent.
  • Stroke is the major reason for epilepsy in people over the age of 35.
  • Around 15 to 30 percent of children who suffer from intellectual disability suffers from epilepsy.
  • 30 to 60 percent of people who are epileptic also suffer from other types of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Improper management of epilepsy leads to unexplained death. Around 1 percent of people suffer from such sudden death due to epilepsy.
  • Between 60 to 70 percent of people suffering from epilepsy respond well to the first anti-epilepsy medication they get. 50% of cases are cured by regular medication after 2 to 5 years.
  • Nearly 1/3rd of people that suffer from epilepsy experience uncontrollable seizures due to their inability to find an effective treatment.
  • It is strange but true that more than 50 percent of epilepsy cases are treated by consuming a ketogenic diet than medication. A modified Atkins diet is seen to have fewer seizures.

Symptoms of Epilepsy

One of the major signs of epilepsy is “seizures“. Based on the type of seizure, symptoms of the disease vary from one person to another. Some of the common forms of seizures are as follows –

1. Focal Seizures

Signs of this type of seizure include –

  • modifications to a sense of smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch
  • dizziness
  • twitching and tingling of limbs

2. Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures impact the brain in any of the below six types –

  1. Absence Seizures are called “petit mal seizures“. This type of seizure results in a blank stare. Such type of seizure causes repetitive movements like blinking or lip-smacking. Generalized seizures are characterized by a short-term loss of consciousness.
  2. Tonic seizure causes stiffness in muscles.
  3. Atonic seizures result in complete loss of control on muscles that can make one fall all of sudden.
  4. Clonic seizures lead to recurrent, and jerky movements of the muscle of the neck, arms, and face.
  5. Myoclonic seizures cause impulsive and rapid twisting of the legs and arms.
  6. Tonic-clonic seizures or grand mal seizures show a variety of symptoms such as –
    • Stiffening in muscles
    • Shaking
    • Loss of control on bladder or bowel movement
    • Loss of awareness
    • Cutting of the tongue

Following this seizure, a person feels a little tired or ill for some hours and do not even remember anything about the incident that happened just a few minutes ago.

What causes an epileptic seizure?

People who suffer from epilepsy, get some indication or intuition in advance about getting an epilepsy attack. They identify a few situations or things as an indication that can get them a seizure. Some of these triggers are –

  • Lack of sleep
  • Illness or fever
  • Bright lights, flashing patterns or lights
  • Stress
  • Tilting of head unconsciously
  • Caffeine, medicines, drugs, and alcohol
  • Overeating, skipping meals, or specific ingredients of food

A combination of the above factors can also trigger an epilepsy attack in a person.

Treatments Prescribed for Epilepsy

Depending on the type of epilepsy, severity of symptoms, present health, and age of a person, the doctor can advise different types of treatment options for efficient management of this disease.

Some of these treatment options include –

1. Anti-epileptic drugs

These medications help in lowering the occurrence of seizures. In most of the cases, regular consumption of medicines can even assist in the elimination of seizures.

2. Vagus nerve stimulator

This device is placed below the chest by surgical means. It electrically stimulates the nerve that passes through the neck, thereby preventing seizures in a person.

3. Ketogenic diet

Around 50 percent of people who fail to show a positive response to medication is seen to get benefited from high fat, and low carbohydrate Keto diet.

4. Brain surgery

This is the last measure. If all of the above treatments fail, then doctors advise the patient to perform brain surgery. This surgery removes or modifies the part of the brain that is responsible for causing seizure activity in them.

Dietary Recommendations for Epilepsy

1. Ketogenic Diet

Doctors believe diet has an important role to play in the treatment of epilepsy. The ketogenic diet is effective in children suffering from epilepsy. This diet has low carbohydrate and high-fat levels with a firm balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fats. The ketosis process forces the body to make use of fat in place of glucose for the production of energy.

The ketogenic diet will not provide gains to everybody. Though, when it is followed properly, it is most successful in lowering the frequency of occurrence of seizures. It works remarkably in only specific cases of epilepsy.

2. Intake of Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6 is a beneficial vitamin known to treat a rare type of epilepsy “Pyridoxine-dependent seizures“. This kind of epilepsy develops either in the womb or immediately after birth.

3. Consumption of Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is seen to increase the chances of a seizure. Magnesium supplementation helps in reduction of seizures in a person.

4. Intake of Vitamin E

Reduced antioxidant levels can also contribute to Vitamin E deficiency. Vitamin E supplements increase levels of antioxidants that assist in reducing the chances of occurrence of seizures in people.

For adults and adolescents suffering from Epilepsy, a modified form of the Atkins diet is recommended. This diet is high in fat with monitored levels of carbohydrates. Nearly 50% of adults who consumed the altered Atkins diet experienced lesser occurrences of seizures. It took only a few months for them to show results.

It is advised to consult with the doctor before you start a new diet regime. Ensure that your diet is providing you all the nutrition necessary for your sound development.

Frequently Asked Questions About Epilepsy

1. Is there any permanent treatment for epilepsy?

Ans : It is rare for epilepsy to permanently go with medication alone. Though long-term and recurring seizures can be efficiently controlled with medication, it won’t cure epilepsy.

2. How does epilepsy impact the daily life of a person?

Ans : Epilepsy is an acute disorder whose impact is not just limited to the brain. The damage that happens with every occurrence of seizure adversely affects several parts of the life of a person. A lot of day to day activities get affected.

A person who suffers from epilepsy is not advised to stay awake in the night, watch a movie in a theater or perform any task that involves mental stress. Missing on regular dose can be an invitation to seizure and even cause permanent impairment of the brain. All these restrictions result in loss of independence.

3. Can epilepsy kill a person?

Ans : Epilepsy is a common type of neurological disorder that leads to unprovoked seizures. Though there is a rare chance of death due to epilepsy, uncontrolled epilepsy is the major cause behind sudden death due to this disease.

4. Can stress lead to seizures?

Ans : Both anxiety and stress are well-established factors that trigger a seizure in people suffering from epilepsy. Research has shown that if a person reduces stress in daily life, he can successfully reduce the chances of seizure to a lot of extent.

5. What behavioral and personality-related changes are caused by epilepsy?

Ans : Feelings of anxiety and depression, losing contact with reality, inability to remember things, low self-esteem, fear of getting seizures in front of public, anger, reduced learning ability are a few behavioral and personality changes seen in people suffering from epilepsy.

6. Is it permitted for a person suffering from epilepsy to drive?

Ans : Yes, he/ she can drive, provided that all the normal driving requirements are met and there is no incidence of seizures in the past year.

7. Is epilepsy classified as a mental illness?

Ans : Epilepsy is not classified as a mental illness. A vast section of people who lives with epilepsy does not exhibit any signs of psychological or cognitive problem. Psychological issues are experienced by people who suffer from uncontrolled epilepsy.

8. Do genes play a role in developing epilepsy?

Ans : As mentioned above, there are a total of five hundred genes that are linked to the development of epilepsy in a person. For people who want to know whether epilepsy is hereditary, should know that yes, epilepsy is hereditary. It runs in families. If a parent/s has got a low seizure threshold, then it is likely for children to become susceptible to seizure triggers.

On the other hand, if a parent/s have genes that indicate a high seizure threshold, it makes their children less prone to have seizures. For children whose parents suffer from epilepsy are 2% to 5% more likely to develop seizures.

9. Is consumption of certain herbs beneficial in Epilepsy

Ans : Herbs like the burning bush, groundsel, hydrocotyle, lily of the valley, mistletoe, mugwort, peony, skullcap, tree of heaven and valerian show anticonvulsant effects that are impactful in reducing the severity of the symptoms of epilepsy in a person.


Epilepsy is a long-lasting disorder that hampers the everyday functioning of a person. There is no specific cure for epilepsy. Early detection is helpful in the effective management of the disease. Getting the right medical assistance can help in seeing a dramatic improvement in the health condition and quality of life.

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