Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain. It is known as a seizure disorder because it is characterized by seizures. Seizures occur when there is some misfiring of the brain’s electrical signals. During seizures, epileptic patients may become unaware of their surroundings, jerk or thrash about uncontrollably, have strange sensations or even lose consciousness. Even though this disorder has been around for centuries, and is a rather common affliction, it is little understood.
Not all the people who have seizures are epileptic patients. Some seizures are caused by other factors besides epilepsy. These factors include extreme dehydration, adverse reaction to certain drugs, high fever and narcolepsy.
There are many possible causes of epilepsy. These causes are divided into 3 categories; idiopathic epilepsy, symptomatic epilepsy and cryptogenic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy is the type of epilepsy that is likely caused by genetics. Symptomatic epilepsy is the kind that has a known cause such as a tumor, central nervous system lesion or a head injury. Cryptogenic epilepsy is the kind that the cause has not yet been found.
All people have what is referred to as a seizure threshold. This threshold is determined by a person’s genetic makeup. Epileptic patients generally have a low seizure threshold as opposed to other people with high seizure threshold. A high seizure threshold can however be lowered by a tumor or a head injury.
Treatment for epilepsy will depend on the type of seizures a patient gets, that is whether they suffer partial (focal) seizures or generalized seizures. Focal seizures are the type that only affect a part of the brain such as one of the two hemispheres or part of any one of the 4 lobes.
They are 2 types of partial seizures; simple partial seizures (only a part of a lobe is affected and a patient does not lose consciousness) and complex partial seizures (a large part of one of the hemispheres is affected and a patient loses consciousness). Generalized seizures involve the whole brain and a patient always loses consciousness.
Medication is an effective treatment for most epileptic patients. The best treatment seems to be anticonvulsant drugs. The aim of the drugs is to control the seizures as frequent seizures have been shown to have a negative effective on academic performance and memory. It is rather important for epileptic patients to take their medication regularly. This reduces the chances of having a seizure.
Some epileptic patients have what is referred to as intractable epilepsy. This is a form of epilepsy that is drug resistant. For this type of epileptic patients, surgery may be a treatment option. There are a number of different surgical procedures performed and these include extratemporal resection, extratemporal lesionectomy, hemispherectomy, temporal lesionectomy and anterior temporal resection.