Approximately 1.4 to 2.7 million people across the United States experience one of many seizure disorders. Epilepsy stems from the nervous system and is considered a disorder of the brain which is characterized by brief, intermittent disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain resulting in seizures. For the brain to function properly, a balance between excitation and inhibition must be present. Epilepsy can result from a birth defect, infection of the brain, brain tumor, or a spontaneous head injury. The cause is unknown for 50% of all cases. Epilepsy can occur at any age but is most commonly seen in small children and the elderly. Epilepsy is not a disability or mental illness however; childhood epilepsy is sometimes associated with below average intelligence as well as physical or mental developmental problems. Seizures may look strange or scary; however they do not deem a person crazy, dangerous or violent. While some individuals stare blankly for a second or two when a seizure occurs, others experience convulsions. Abnormal electrical impulses in certain groups of nerve cells as well as certain groups of chemicals that regulate electrical impulses in the brain cause epileptic seizures. The only visible symptoms of epilepsy are seizures. Doctors don't think epilepsy is hereditary but the cause is still unknown.
Communication in the brain begins with neurons firing electrical signals that are passed from cell to cell. This pattern of electrical signals demonstrates how active the brain is at any given time. The location of each signal specifies such activity as controlling muscle movement, feeling, thinking, seeing, and hearing. Epilepsy causes disruption in these normal electrical signals with a disturbance in the firing pattern. This abnormal and very intense disturbance can affect an isolated area of the brain or in more severe cases, affect the brain in its entirety. In many cases the cause of epileptic seizures is unknown with no definite abnormality of the brain. The term used to describe any type of unknown cause of epilepsy is idiopathic.
One of the most serious types of seizures is the Grand Mal seizure, also known as the Tonic Clonic seizure. This type of seizure is triggered by the electrical signals spreading throughout the entire brain all at one time. Because the entire brain is affected, the individual immediately experiences an abnormal change in sensations along with dizziness, usually losing consciousness and shaking due to extreme muscle contractions. The entire body is affected, lasting for several minutes. Once the seizure commences, the individual is left in a state of confusion, unable to recall the series of events. No permanent damage to the brain is caused by the event. Hypoglycemia or a transient ischemic attack can cause this type of seizure however, is generally brought on by epilepsy. Other conditions that can trigger a seizure are lack of sleep, stress, starvation, and flashing lights. Epilepsy does not discriminate and can be detected in individuals of all ages. Infants are sometimes born with a defect in the structure of their brain. Infections of the brain or a head injury are other causes in newborns. While severe injuries to the head are often the most common causes in young adults, tumors, transient ischemic attacks, and injuries are causes in middle aged individuals. By the time a person reaches the age of 65, transient ischemic attacks and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are the most common known cause of epilepsy.
Another type of seizure which is not as severe as the Tonic Clonic is the Partial seizure. Even though the brain is affected in the same way, the abnormal firing process is isolated and affects the temporal or frontal lobe of the brain. There are three types of partial seizures; Simple Partial, Complex Partial and...