Epilepsy is a noncommunicable disease of the brain that affects close to 50 million people worldwide. The symptoms of this illness are recurrent seizures that involve the involuntary movement of one part of the body or the whole body and can be followed by loss of consciousness and losing control of bladder function. Here are 7 more facts you should know about epilepsy:
1. Caused by a neurological imbalance
Neurons are cells in our brain responsible for carrying electrical impulses. Their function is to receive signals and relay them to other cells. For our bodies to be able to function properly, this activity must be maintained at normal levels. In epilepsy patients, multiple impulses are fired through the neurons at the same time leading to seizures.
2. Risk factors are many
Certain conditions make a person more likely to develop seizures and epilepsy. These risk factors are:
- Underweight babies and ones born with abnormal brain areas
- Brain infection, injury, tumour or haemorrhage
- People with cerebral palsy or intellectual disabilities
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Family history of epilepsy
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Use of illegal drugs like cocaine
3. External stimuli can trigger seizures
Some conditions can make someone more prone to having an epileptic fit. Things like not getting enough sleep, alcohol, drugs, stress, missed medications and specific foods can cause seizures. Some triggers like music, flashing lights, regular talking, reading, and writing are difficult to avoid.
4. Temporary paralysis after a seizure
Sometimes, after the seizure has stopped, in a neurological condition known as Todd’s paralysis, patients may experience partial or full-body paralysis. This loss of movement can last from anywhere between 30 minutes to 24 hours, but usually, it does not exceed 15 hours.
5. Epilepsy can be prevented
Epilepsy is not just an inherited condition, anyone regardless of age, gender or race can develop this disease. Proper prenatal care, immunizing children, reducing the risk of stroke and using safety measures to avoid brain injury may reduce the chances of getting epilepsy.
6. Keto diet recommended for epilepsy
The ketogenic diet is recommended to those patients whose seizures cannot be controlled with anti-epileptic drugs. It is a low-carb, high fat and protein-controlled diet that has been used since 1920 for the treatment of this disease.
7. Centuries of superstitious beliefs
Since time immemorial, cultures around the world used to look at seizures as spiritual possession. The ancient Greeks used to believe that seizures were sacred and punishments from the gods. The Romans believed that an epileptic person is possessed by a demon and if the victim touches another person the demon transfer would take place unless the other person spits.
Note: Epilepsy today can be effectively controlled by diet, medications, and surgery. Epileptic patients can lead normal, productive lives free of ignorant bias, societal isolation, superstitions, and fear.