Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterised by misfiring electrical signals in the brain. This malfunction leads to temporary disturbances in nerve cell communication, resulting in abnormal brain activity and the onset of seizures. Though these symptoms can be transient, they have a tendency to reappear. In Thailand, approximately 1% of the populace, translating to around 700,000 individuals, grapple with epilepsy.

Epilepsy Symptoms: What to Look Out For

The hallmark symptom of epilepsy is seizures, though their manifestation varies among patients and depends on the seizure type. Broadly, seizures are classified into:

  1. Generalised Seizures: Impacting the entire brain, generalised seizures don't always correlate with discernible brain abnormalities. Genetic factors are often implicated. These seizures might exhibit symptoms like:
    • Muscle rigidity or tension
    • Muscle jerking
    • Staring blankly
    • Sudden collapsing
    • Short breath holds leading to a blue tinge
    • Tongue biting or bladder control loss
    • Post-seizure fatigue or headache
  2. Partial/Focal Seizures: Originating from a specific brain region, their symptoms mirror the affected region's function. These can include:
    • Limb or facial jerking
    • Tingling sensations or numbness
    • Visual or auditory hallucinations
    • Autonomic nervous system symptoms like abdominal pain or dizziness

Sometimes, partial seizures can evolve into generalised seizures.

However, certain conditions mimic epilepsy symptoms, including fainting, paralysis signs, and low blood sugar.

What Causes Epilepsy?

Various factors and conditions impacting the brain can trigger epilepsy, and its causes can differ by age:

  • Newborns: Birth-related injuries.
  • Children: High fevers, encephalitis, or meningitis.
  • Teenagers and Middle-aged Adults: Genetic factors, trauma, brain parasites, or blood vessel abnormalities.
  • Elderly: Stroke or brain tumours. For some, the root cause remains elusive despite exhaustive testing.

Diagnosing Epilepsy

A comprehensive medical history and physical examination form the crux of epilepsy diagnosis. Additional tests like blood tests, EEG, or CT scans might be prescribed. Notably, 20-40% of epilepsy patients might present with normal EEGs, and many might not exhibit CT scan abnormalities.

Treatment Options for Epilepsy

Effective epilepsy management includes:

  • Addressing underlying causes like parasites or abnormal blood vessels.
  • Medication to control seizures.
  • Lifelong medication for certain patients.

Guidelines for Individuals with Epilepsy

  • Ensure consistent medication intake for 3-5 years.
  • Sidestep potential seizure triggers: sleep deprivation, alcohol, excessive physical exertion, or medication lapses.
  • Exercise caution in high-risk activities like driving or swimming.
  • Prioritise overall well-being, both physical and mental.
  • Regular medical check-ups to oversee symptom progression and medication side effects.

Key Takeaway

Epilepsy doesn’t inflict permanent brain damage but may momentarily impair memory. With diligent medication and adherence to medical advice, epilepsy can be effectively managed or even staved off.