Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the brain and causes seizures. A seizure usually leads to disorientation and muscle spasms, and feelings of confusion afterwards.

Overview

Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the brain and causes seizures. A seizure usually leads to disorientation and muscle spasms, and feelings of confusion afterwards. Some seizures can be less severe than others. The cause isn’t always clear, and epilepsy may sometimes result from another underlying condition.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • The symptoms of an epileptic seizure are very diverse, depending on the areas of the brain that are affected .

If a large part of the brain is affected, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Visual disturbances, speech disorders or movement disorders as precursors or "warnings"
  • Disorientation
  • Jerking or rhythmic muscle contractions
  • Sudden tensing of muscles or loss of muscle strength
  • Short nap and disorientation after an attack

If just one area of the brain is affected, the symptoms are usually less severe and the following can occur, for example:

  • Lip smacking, chewing
  • Making complex body movements
  • Hallucinations

Causes and treatment

Causes

An epileptic seizure is caused by a sudden increase in nerve cell activity in the brain. It is usually unclear why certain people have a tendency towards epileptic seizures. Rare but possible causes include:

  • Genetic factors (family predisposition)
  • Brain haemorrhage, cerebral vein thrombosis
  • Cerebral inflammation (encephalitis), brain abscess
  • Brain injury, brain malformation
  • Brain tumour

Epileptic seizures can occur without warning, but possible triggers include:

  • Alcohol withdrawal, medication withdrawal
  • Drugs, medication
  • Fever (most common cause with children)
  • Blood salt imbalance
  • Sleep deprivation

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • EEG (electroencephalogram)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Blood test
  • Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid
Possible therapies
  • If possible, removal of the cause
  • Medication
  • Operation (in selected cases)

What can I do myself?

  • During a seizure, the patient should be positioned in a way that ensures that they can't hurt themselves (preferably on the floor)
  • Remove any hard, pointed or sharp objects in the vicinity, as these pose a danger
  • If the patient vomits, roll the upper body onto its side so that the vomit can flow from the mouth

When to see a doctor?

  • After the first seizure
  • If a seizure involving jerking and spasms lasts longer than 5 minutes or recurs frequently at short intervals, this constitutes a medical emergency

Further information

Swiss League Against Epilepsy (Schweizerische Epilepsie-Liga)
www.epi.ch

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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