Epilepsy: definition, causes, diagnosis and treatment
Of all the neurological diseases that can affect the human brain, few are as relevant as the epilepsy .
It is a disorder that affects some 50 million people worldwide (according to WHO data), is chronic and is also one of the diseases of the brain that produces a greater number of deaths. On the other hand, after strokes and dementias, epilepsy is the most common brain disease.
This is why both clinical psychology and neurosciences and psychiatry are making great efforts to understand what epilepsy is and how it acts.
What is epilepsy?
The term epilepsy serves to designate a disorder in which imbalances in brain function cause so-called epileptic seizures to appear . These crises are episodes in which large groups of neurons begin to emit electrical discharge in an anomalous way, causing the person to lose control of their actions and part or all of consciousness.
Episodes of this type can last seconds or minutes, and appear unexpectedly regardless of the context in which the person is. So, what triggers these crises has more to do with the internal dynamics of the functioning of the nervous system than with what happens around the person , although one thing can not be totally separated from the other.
Seizures in epileptic seizures
In most cases, during epileptic seizures the person not only loses control over what they do, but also suffers seizures, meaning that many muscles of your body begin to contract and relax at the same time and repeatedly, causing tremors .
However, this is not a symptom that defines epilepsy in all its forms (because it can also occur without convulsions) nor does it have to do only with this disease, since it is possible to experience a crisis episode with seizures without epilepsy. .To learn more about what happens in the brain when you experience seizures, you can read this article
Causes of this disorder
The causes of epilepsy are only known at a relatively superficial level , that is to say, they are only known to occur when a large number of neurons start firing signals at the same time and in an anomalous way, although the details of the biochemical processes that trigger this type of processes are unknown.
That's why, more than knowing the why of epileptic seizures, we know the how of them, what serves to describe them without going into detail. Among the factors that seem to be associated with the appearance of epilepsy are:
- Brain tumors.
- Cranioencephalic traumatisms that leave sequels.
- Cardiovascular accidents that damage parts of the brain.
- Congenital or genetic brain malformations.
- Meningitis or encephalitis.
It is, then, problems that affect an individual brain, and not contagious diseases, which results in that epilepsy can not be contagious or contagious.
In addition, when considering what are the causes of epilepsy, it should be noted that Individual differences have a very important role in epilepsy , since each brain is unique. In the same way, there is also a great variability in the forms that epilepsy can adopt, a fact that gives rise to the debate of whether there will be, rather than a disease called epilepsy, several types of epilepsy with little relation to each other.
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Epilepsy is caused by a pattern of anomalous activation of groups of neurons, and therefore to diagnose it we must see, exactly, how the brain of the person works in real time. To achieve this, specialists in the field of neurology will use technologies to read brain activity (such as encephalography or EEG) to see how certain parts of the brain are activated.
As even in the case of experiencing epilepsy, brain activity can be apparently normal at times when epileptic seizures do not occur, in many cases it will be necessary to carry a device for a few days that will send signals about the neuronal activation patterns that it detects .
In addition to this, the health examination may include many other tests, such as lumbar puncture or blood and urine tests, depending on each case.
As epilepsy is a neurological disease that affects all areas of a person's life, It is very common that the treatments used against it are invasive . In addition to psychotherapeutic care, they are accustomed to using treatments based on psychotropic drugs and other medicines.
In many cases, after testing the effectiveness of anticonvulsants, surgery may be recommended to isolate or destroy the brain area from which epileptic seizures are triggered, or to introduce a device in the brain called a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (ENV). ) that reduces the frequency of appearance of the crises.
It should be kept in mind, however, that in many cases epileptic seizures will never disappear completely , and only the intensity and frequency of epileptic seizures can be reduced.