Coping with epilepsy

Epileptic Seizures

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is characterized by recurring seizures. Epileptic seizures strike because of some changes in the brain tissue that can excite the brain cells to send abnormal signals. If the symptoms are diagnosed at the right time, then medications can be prescribed to cure the disease. Surgery is required in rare cases of epilepsy.

Causes of epilepsy

The causes of epilepsy can be broadly classified as:

  1. Idiopathic epilepsy occurs due to some genetic abnormalities.
  2. Symptomatic epilepsy occurs due to some injury, lesions, tumor, or some metabolic malfunctioning.
  3. Epilepsy is termed as cryptogenic when the cause cannot be determined.

Symptoms of epileptic seizures

Symptoms of epileptic seizures vary a lot and therefore at times it becomes difficult to say if it is an epileptic seizure or any other complication. The most common epileptic symptoms are uncontrollable jerking of arms and legs, loss of consciousness, temporary confusion, twitching, prolonged sleep after convulsions, bladder incontinence, stiff muscles, dilated pupil, froth appearing from mouth, respiratory problems, and loosening of bowels.

Living with epilepsy is not easy. It poses several challenges in maintaining a normal quality of life. However, with some precautions you can actually minimize the frequency of seizures. If you are well informed and prepared, then you will also be able to manage the convulsions in a better way.

Risk factors

Epilepsy can happen to anyone irrespective of age, gender, and race. Although epilepsy cannot be cured with the medications, it can be controlled if you can identify the factors that trigger seizures. Several factors can increase the risk for a seizure. Some of them are:

  1. Change in medication (skipping routine drugs or intake of nutritional supplements)
  2. Stress (physical or emotional)
  3. Infection or any other illness
  4. Lack of sleep
  5. Alcohol or narcotic drugs
  6. Pregnancy

These factors are not generalized, i.e. every patient has his own set of factors or triggers that can enhance the occurrence of seizures. It is important to recognize which of the factors cause epileptic seizure. Minimizing or completely removing the triggers is known as avoidance therapy. Another interesting example of avoidance therapy is the sunglasses that can improve photosensitive epilepsy by countering the exposure of particular light wavelength.

Preventive measures

You can identify the triggers by keeping a record of the early warnings commonly known as auras. Aura is an unpleasant feeling that patients perceives just before the occurrence of an epileptic seizure. In general, epileptic seizures can be reduced by minimizing the stress and by taking proper sleep. People with sleeping disorders may find it difficult to control their seizures even by taking proper medication. Consult your doctor and maintain a sleep pattern that can help you deescalate the occurrence of seizures.

Maintaining a handy record of auras, symptoms, medications and your body functions during epileptic seizures can help you prevent injuries. You can also write some guidelines for the strangers like emergency contact number and your name if you are not able to talk during convulsions. It is also advisable to discuss your problem with your colleagues and near ones so that they can help you effectively at the time of seizure.

Epileptic patients are very prone to accidents. To avoid such accidents to happen, always follow safety guidelines while installing electrical fittings at your home and office. Also, never select furniture that has sharp edges. Avoid alcohol and addictive narcotic drugs.

Nowadays medical alert jewelry is also available for the epileptic patients that can get you prompt medical services at the time of seizure. Driving, climbing, and swimming alone are also not advisable for the patients of epilepsy.


Right medication is another big thing that can help you in living a normal life. Take your medicines properly as prescribed. Even if the condition is not improving or your medicine is causing side effects that may include mood swings, excessive sleepiness, or unsteadiness in posture, then consult your doctor to find other options. It is true that anticonvulsant drugs have their own side effects and it is the primary responsibility of your caregiver to identify the best medication for you with minimal side effects. The objective can be achieved either by single medicine monotherapy or by a combination of two or more anticonvulsant drugs polypharmacy.

Apart from medications, some other treatment options are also available for the epileptic patients, such as:

  1. Brain surgery

When seizures are resistant to the anticonvulsant drugs, then a brain surgery is a viable option where neurosurgeon removes the abnormal brain tissues. It may provide total control of seizures but medicines may still be needed.

2. Ketogenic diet

It is a high fat, low-carb diet and is often recommended to the children suffering from epilepsy. The diet was developed in 1920 but accurate mechanism is still unknown. Some studies conclude that ketogenic diet can reduce the weekly seizure occurrence to a level of 30 percent.

3. Vagus nerve stimulation

It is an electrical stimulation method and is currently used for treatment as well as for investigation. For treatment, a computerized electrical device is implanted in your chest that is connected to the vagus nerve in the neck. The device stimulates the nerve at a regular interval of time. Success rate is nowhere comparable to the brain surgery but it is proving to be a very suitable alternative for the patients who are not willing to opt for brain surgery.

Apart from tradition treatment options some people also opt for alternative therapies such as yoga, psychological interventions and acupuncture for the treatment of epilepsy, but the success rate is not yet established.

The challenges for epileptics can be varied. If you are well aware of the options and responsibilities, you will be able to get the best treatment option and can live the life like any healthy person.

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