People suffering from epilepsy can experience attacks that can cause mild to severe symptoms. Sometimes, epilepsy can put a person in a dangerous situation. Learn more about the condition and possible epilepsy causes to avoid.
The brain controls a person’s thoughts, memory, movements, and other important bodily functions. In fact, the brain, together with the spinal cord, makes up the central nervous system (CNS), which is responsible for making sure that the body responds to information that is processed by the senses or signaled by the different organs.
Important functions of the body such as the beating of the heart or the release of adrenaline in emergency situations are possible because of the CNS. Consequently, malfunctions of the normal functions of the CNS, especially in the brain, can have serious effects on a person’s overall health.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition that mainly affects a person’s brain activity, which causes a person to experience seizures. Contrary to popular belief, seizures are not just limited to a person suddenly stiffening and shaking uncontrollably. Seizures can have a variety of symptoms, depending on which part of the brain is affected.
Possible symptoms of a seizure include:
- A sudden loss of awareness is characterized by spacing out or becoming unresponsive
- Suddenly feeling confused
- Unusual sensations such as a “rising” feeling in the stomach or a feeling of impending doom, weird smells or tastes, or getting tingles in any of your limbs
- Losing consciousness or collapsing
- Experiencing a “fit” or uncontrollable shaking or jerking in the arms and legs
Generally, there are two types of seizures namely focal and generalized seizures. Focal seizures only involve one part of the brain and can cause a partial loss of awareness or impaired sensory functions.
Generalized seizures can affect all parts of the brain, and can be categorized into many types.
Possible Epilepsy Causes to Avoid
According to the World Health Organization, over 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy. This makes it one of the most common CNS disorders. However, in some cases of epilepsy, the cause remains unidentified. What is currently known about epilepsy is that the brain activity is affected and that sudden bursts of electricity in the brain are what causes seizures.
Some causes of epilepsy may be avoided. Identifiable causes of seizures that may lead to epilepsy are the following:
Studies conducted across populations have shown that epilepsy can be passed on from generation to generation in families. However, the data has shown that it is dependent on the type of epilepsy. A person has an increased chance of developing epilepsy if a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, has a form of generalized epilepsy.
Some genes have also been identified which are only specific to people with epilepsy. Genetic issues such as autism, intellectual disability, or stunted growth are also associated with epilepsy.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) happens when some external force causes a severe injury on the head. Head injuries are one of the most well-recognized causes of epilepsy because head injuries can cause bleeding or bruising of the brain, skull, or tissue surrounding the brain. Severe injuries may also cause swelling, which greatly impairs the normal neurological functions.
The following can cause TBI:
- Fragments of the skull chipping off and puncturing the brain tissue
- External objects that puncture the skull and brain tissue, such as bullets or stab wounds
- Excessive shaking of the head that can be a result of child abuse
- Sudden blows to the head that can result from accidents, car crashes, or falls
Stroke is one of the possible epilepsy causes to avoid. A stroke happens when there is not enough blood supply getting to the brain, either caused by a blood clot or a bursting of a blood vessel. People who have just recently suffered a stroke may also suffer from seizures within the first 24 hours after their attack.
Specifically, seizures most often occur in people who have suffered a hemorrhagic stroke or a stroke affecting the cerebral cortex. If a recovering patient has more than one recurring seizure episode in a month, then they may have epilepsy.
Not all patients who have suffered from a stroke will develop epilepsy. However, epilepsy can develop due to brain damage resulting from a stroke.
When abnormal cells in the brain start to form a mass, it’s called a brain tumor. Data shows that 2 to 3 people with brain tumors will experience at least 1 seizure. Although the reason for this link still isn’t definite, doctors attribute tumor-related seizures to the growth of abnormal cells sending more signals in the brain, which causes the electrical surges associated with a seizure attack.
Another possible reason for brain tumors to cause seizures could be the abnormal cells causing chemical disturbances in the brain, which can result in nerve endings producing more surges of electricity. Epilepsy may be diagnosed after a patient with brain tumor has experienced numerous seizures.
Premature or Low Birth Weight
Babies who are premature or have a lower than average birth weight are at risk of neonatal seizures, or seizures that occur in the first 28 days of the baby’s life. Usually, seizures may start to occur in babies who are only 1 or 2 weeks old. Data shows that almost half of the babies who experience neonatal seizures will usually develop epilepsy later on in life.
Brain damage due to prenatal or perinatal causes – such as loss or oxygen or a particularly traumatic delivery – can also lead to epileptic seizures. However, these can be addressed with proper child care and maternal care.
Parents should be highly attuned to their baby’s behavior if they are at risk of neonatal seizures because the signs can be subtle. Symptoms of neonatal seizures that parents or guardians should be mindful of are the following:
- Eye movements such as the fluttering of eyelids, or the eyes rolling up
- Pedaling of the legs
- Sudden thrashing movements
- Sudden pauses between breaths, or apnea
To recap, epilepsy is a condition that is diagnosed when a person experiences more than one seizure. Its main cause is electrical surges in the brain caused by abnormal brain activity. Other causes of seizures that may lead to epilepsy include genes, traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, brain tumors, and premature or low birth weight. It’s best to discuss with your doctor further the possible epilepsy causes to avoid and how to manage episodes.
Learn more about the Brain and the Nervous System here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.