About 50,000 women of child-bearing age in the US have a seizure disorder. Not only do they have to cope with seizures, but they must also deal with the disorder's impact on their reproductive health
Epilepsy is often misled as a disorder which is untreatable and the person suffering from this cannot live a normal life. On the contrary to this, the fact is that with proper treatment, it is possible to manage epilepsy and lead a normal life.
Let’s understand more about epilepsy to prove the fact.
What is Epilepsy?
A neurological disorder, epilepsy is characterized by formation of abnormal waves in the brain causing recurrent seizures. During an episode of epilepsy, patient gets tremors, falls on the ground, clenches his teeth and faints for some time.
What are the situations that can trigger an epilepsy attack?
Though an episode of epilepsy can occur at any time to anyone, but there are certain factors that can raise the chances of an epilepsy attack. These include, extreme stress, missing medicine, inadequate sleep, hormonal changes, excessive alcohol intake, decreased blood sugar or blood pressure, sudden exposure to very bright light.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
During an episode of epilepsy, patient may experience some of the symptoms like darkness in front of eyes, temporary confusion, a staring spell, mouth foaming, uncontrolled jerking of arms and legs, sudden loss of consciousness, frequent walking, biting lips or tongue etc.
Causes of epilepsy
There is no specific cause of epilepsy known, but birth defects, genetics, brain infections, deprivation of oxygen to the brain, head injury, injury in the womb, stroke, brain tumor, brain tuberculosis etc. may cause epilepsy.
What are the types of epilepsy?
Epilepsy is broadly divided into 3-4 categories:
Generalized Epilepsy: In this, the epileptic activity affects whole brain and the patient becomes unconscious.
Partial (focal) Epilepsy: Involving one side of the brain, partial seizures can be simple or complex causing symptoms related to affected area.
Absence Seizures: It involves short unconsciousness episodes in which the patient keeps staring into the space.
Complex Partial Seizures: During complex partial seizures, patient generally forgets about the seizure as it affects the person’s consciousness.
Diagnosis of epilepsy
The diagnosis of epilepsy requires thorough medical history, physical examination and investigations like EEG (electroencephalogram), a CT and MRI of the brain, and blood tests. All these details help in identification of the possible cause of seizures like tumor, infection, blood clot etc. and plan the treatment accordingly.
Treatment of epilepsy
Generally, anti-seizure medications are effective in controlling or preventing the seizure activity. But it may take time to find the right medicine and right dosage as one medicine that works for a patient may not work for another.
Surgery is basically done to fix the cause of epilepsy. E.g. if brain tumor is the cause, it is removed by surgery. In some cases, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is required if the origin of seizure is not clear or if it is originating from many places. The procedure involves placement of neurostimulators inside the brainto prevent seizures.
Can a woman suffering from epilepsy conceive?
A woman with no seizures for 2 years or more can plan a pregnancy. As some epilepsy drugs are not given in pregnancy, it is important to consult neurologist to change the medicine and keep gynecologist and pediatrician informed about your epilepsy and medications. Also, if seizure occurs during pregnancy, inform gynaecologist and neurologist as soon as possible.
Possibility of normal life after medication
Epilepsy patients can live a normal life by taking proper medication. Medication may be required only for few years while some patients may need it for whole life. After first episode of epilepsy, there is a 50 % chance of recurrence, while a second attack, increases the risk to 75%.
There's no need to worry about whether you have epilepsy or not. Every ailment has a cure, and women can lead a healthy life with proper guidance and treatment, thanks to advancements in the medical field.
Q. Are there particular concerns for women who have epilepsy?
A. Pregnant women must take special care if they have epilepsy, as hormonal changes can cause more seizures.
Q. Why is epilepsy more common in females?
A. The probable cause of women suffering more from epilepsy is the average changes in progesterone and oestrogen levels during the reproductive cycle.
Q. Can you live a normal life with epilepsy?
A. People with epilepsy can lead an entire life. Anyone can lead a healthy lifestyle and cure epilepsy with proper medication and treatment.
Q. Can epilepsy be prevented?
A. 25% of epilepsy cases are preventable. All you need to do is prevent head injuries and adopt adequate perinatal care to reduce the risk of originating a new epilepsy case.
Q. Does epilepsy get worse with age?
A. The epilepsy condition worsens with age and substantially increases over age 60. That is due to the growth in neurological conditions like stroke and dementia.
Q. Does epilepsy damage the brain?
A. If the seizures are severe and repeatedly occur, the risk of damaging the brain increases in that case.
Q. Can you live a normal life with seizures?
A. Yes. People with epilepsy can live normal, long healthy lives by managing seizures. Moreover, one should maintain positivity and look for opportunities to live a healthy life.
Dr. Atul Prasad
Senior Director & HOD