Epilepsy: Causes, Types, Warning Signs & Treatment Options

Epilepsy – also called seizure disorder – is a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and in some cases loss of awareness. In epilepsy, abnormal brain activity means that nerve cells don’t signal properly, which causes seizures. About 65 million people worldwide are suffering from this central nervous system disorder. In the United States, about 3.4 million have epilepsy and each year there are about 150,000 new cases. Everyone – doesn’t matter the age, ethnicity, or gender – can develop epilepsy. Making it a fairly common condition that affects 1 in 26 Americans. Being educated about this disorder is very important. For example: what causes epilepsy, how do you recognize it, and is there a cure?

Causes of Epilepsy
What exactly causes (active) epilepsy is in most cases unknown. In about 30% of epilepsy cases, there is a known cause. These include:

  • Hereditary
  • Mesial temporal sclerosis; a scar in the frontal lobe that may cause seizures
  • Head injuries, accidents; falls or blows to the head
  • Brain infection; like brain abscess, meningitis, encephalitis
  • Immune disorders, the immune system attacking brain calls, causing seizures
  • Developmental disorders, like focal cortical dysplasia, polymicrogyria, and tuberous sclerosis
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Brain conditions, like brain tumors, strokes, and dementia
  • Brain vessel abnormalities, like arteriovenous malformations.

Types of Epilepsy Seizures
There are no different types of epilepsy. All patients have the same diagnosis called epilepsy. What does differ – and is thus categorized differently – is the type of seizures a person has. These types are based on where the seizure starts in your brain, your level of awareness, and if there is any presence of muscle movement during a seizure. The two seizure groups are called: focal onset seizures and generalized onset seizures. Focal onset seizures start in one specific part of the brain, whereas in generalized onset seizures a larger network of brain cells on both sides of the brain is affected. These major types are divided into subtypes. These include:

  • Focal onset aware seizure, means someone is awake and aware during the attack.
  • Focal onset impaired awareness seizure, mean someone is confused or lost consciousness during the attack.
  • Absence seizures, someone had a brief loss of awareness during an attack.
  • Atonic seizures, someone lost muscle control or has weak muscles during an attack.
  • Tonic seizures, someone has tense/stiff muscles during an attack.
  • Clonic seizures, someone has repeating stiffening and relaxing muscles during an attack.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures, someone has a combination of the above two-mentioned types.
  • Myoclonic seizures, someone has short shock-like muscle twitches during an attack.

Continue reading and find out how you can recognize epilepsy in yourself or your loved ones.