Epilepsy is a long-term neurological disorder characterized by abnormal contractions of different muscles or the entire body due to inadequate transmission of electrical impulses in the brain. Symptoms of epilepsy vary a lot and generally depend of the type of seizures. While some patients only stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure (absent seizures), others may experience twitching of the entire body, loss of consciousness and bladder/bowel incontinence.
It is essential to bring the condition under control which is achieved with many different anti-epileptic drugs. Even mild cases of epilepsy need to be properly controlled because the disease itself is associated with different complications, some of which may be even fatal.
People at Risk for Developing Epilepsy
In the majority of cases epilepsy occurs either in early childhood or after age 65. Men are more affected comparing to women. People with a family history of the condition are most likely to develop the condition themselves. The onset of epilepsy is also closely connected with previous heat trauma, stroke, brain infections, brain tumors, increased temperature in childhood etc.
What are Complications of Epilepsy?
Having a seizure can be dangerous for both, patients as well as people from their surrounding.
One of the most common complication of epilepsy is falling. Patients who lose their consciousness are prone to fall during the attack. This carries huge risk of head injuries as well as fractures of different bones in the body.
Furthermore, people suffering from epilepsy who are into water sports or simply spend time in swimming-pools are at higher risk of drowning if seizures occur while they are in water and there is no one to help them.
Car accidents may also take place if seizures occur while a person is driving. This is the reason why many patients are not allowed to drive until they are seizure-free for a determined period of time.
The condition is additionally associated with certain pregnancy complications. Namely, pregnant women suffering from epilepsy are at higher risk of having a baby with birth defect (due to medications they are taking). Furthermore, such women are more susceptible to other pregnancy complications comparing to healthy women.
Epilepsy may be a cause of accompanying psychological problems, depression or anxiety. Certain number of patients are also suicidal. The reason why these problems occur may be the very condition they are suffering from, or the influence of drugs they are taking. Also the combination of the two is possible.
Finally, there are two more rather severe complications of epilepsy. The first one is status epilepticus, the condition which is characterized by seizures that cannot be brought under control and last more that 5 minutes. Status epilepticus carries risk of permanent damage to the brain and lethal outcome. The second severe complication is sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). It affects patients with uncontrolled or poorly controlled disease. In many cases this complication is related to frequent tonic-clonic seizures.