Epilepsy is a chronic brain problem, characterized by seizures. There are different types of epilepsy, but all of them are known to be caused by abnormal simultaneous electrical discharge of groups of neurons in the brain provoking convulsions. A patient who has a seizure may experience change ether in the attention or in behavior, because not all epileptic seizures are like you have seen in movies. People may have a seizure and look like wandering and thinking about something for a minute or two, while some individuals may fall and start to convulse.
Seizures can be provoked by medical conditions like brain tumors or situation when a person tries to quit alcohol. However, once these problems are brought under control, patients usually do not experience epilepsy any more. Although one epileptic attack might be only a temporary problem, there are 25% chances the person will experience another seizure and after that 70% chances to experience three and more convulsions sometime later and be eventually diagnosed with epilepsy.
Depending on the part of the brain where the seizure has started and the type of seizures, specialists differentiate partial (focal, localized) and generalized seizures.
Partial seizures occur in one or more parts of the brain and represent a very common type of epilepsy. Most of these seizures are not associated with any cause (idiopathic seizures) but some people may develop partial seizures after certain injuries.
There are two subcategories of this type of epilepsy known as simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures and both of these can progress further, affect the whole brain and become generalized seizures. In some cases this progression is extremely quick, so that doctors cannot even recognize partial but just generalized convulsions.
These convulsions are found to affect both sides of the human brain and they usually have a large impact on the patient. Doctors recognize several subtypes of generalized epileptic seizures, including grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures, petit mal (absence) seizures, simply tonic or clonic seizures, myoclonic seizures and atonic convulsions.
What to Expect with Epilepsy?
Epilepsy prognosis depends on the type of the condition and severity of seizures. Response to medical treatment is also very important. If seizures respond well to therapy, patients may have normal lifespan.
However, some 30% of all epileptic seizures do not respond to any treatment and in such situation patients may have lower than average survival rate. Epileptic patients may experience different emotional problem because of their condition, such as anxiety, depression or even commit suicide.
Epilepsy also poses certain but very low risk of sudden death, due to status epilepticus or perhaps because of heart arrhythmias.