Epilepsy: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

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Dissecting Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which disrupted electrical signals are sent to the brain resulting in recurrent seizures. It causes very unusual brain activity, which leads to unusual behaviors, loss of awareness, and sensations.  The two main types of seizures that exist are;

  • Generalized seizure; this one affects the whole brain.
  • Partial or focal seizures; affect only some parts of the brain.

The mildest seizures can be so unobvious that you might not even know they occurred; it may be for just a few seconds, unnoticed. However, more severe seizures cause muscle twitches and spasms. When this happens in some people, they tend to become confused and lose consciousness in the process. It is quite possible that except people around who witnessed the incident tell you you had a seizure, you might not remember a thing about it.

Some of the things that trigger seizures include high fever, extremely low blood sugar, alcohol withdrawal, and injury to the head. According to research, this neurological disorder affects about 65 million people in the world today.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder, is a human illness, and can affect all age grades, but research has found it to be more common among children and young adults. Also, it is believed that of the population of people who have epilepsy around the world, the male population is higher. In other words, epilepsy, asides in children, tends to be more common in the male folk than in the female folk.

Sadly, researchers have been unable to find a cure for epilepsy; however, there are medications, therapies, and methods for its management.


The major and most common symptom of epilepsy is a seizure. Although, symptoms differ from individual to the kind of seizure that occurs.

Partial or Focal Seizures

A focal seizure does not involve loss of consciousness. There are two types of focal seizures, they are

  • Simple focal seizure
  • Complex focal seizure
The symptoms of simple focal seizure include;
  • Alteration of senses, either of smell, taste, sight, touch, or hearing
  • Twitching and tingling of limb
  • Dizziness
For complex partial seizures, the symptoms include;
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Moving repetitively
  • Staring blankly at space

Generalized Seizures

headacheThis seizure affects the entire brain. As a result of this, it is divided into six types these six types are;

  • Absence seizures; the major symptom of the absence seizure is staring blankly into space. It is also referred to as petit mal seizures. Other symptoms include odd body movements like constant smacking of the lips and constant blinking.
  • Clonic seizure; involves the movement of the face, arms, and neck muscles as well as constant jerking.
  • Atonic seizures; here, the victims lose control over their muscles and fall down due to weakness and fatigue.
  • Myoclonic seizures; here, the arms and the legs begin to twitch spontaneously.
  • Tonic seizures; causes muscle spasm or muscle stiffness.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures; it is also known as grand mal seizures. Its symptoms include;

Shaking and jerking

Body stiffness

Biting of tongue

Loss of consciousness

Loss of control over the bowel or bladder

Loss of muscle control

After a seizure episode, you might not remember you had a seizure; you may only feel a little bit sick for few hours.

Epilepsy Triggers

Some epilepsy triggers have been identified by a group of medical practitioners. Some of the commonly reported triggers are;

journal, you can also monitor the medication and management process to know if they are working. One of the very crucial things to note while keeping a medication monitor journal is how and what you felt before and after the seizure, as well as the side effects you notice each time you experience the incident.

  • It is Fever or sickness.
  • Bright lights
  • Seeing patterns
  • Flashing lights
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Drugs
  • Skipping meals
  • Overeating
  • Some kind of odor and some kinds of food ingredients.
  • Being able to identify triggers of epilepsy is usually difficult. A combination of a number of factors could trigger epilepsy.

The best way to identify your seizures is by keeping a journal for them. After experiencing the seizure episode, take note of these;

  • The day and time it occurred.
  • The activity you engaged yourself in last before you blacked out.
  • Your degree of fatigue
  • How much sleep you had the previous night
  • What you think happened around you during the incident.
  • Unusual things that stressed you out
  • What you ate last before the seizure
  • When last you ate before the seizure

It is important to always take the journal along with you to the hospital whenever you want to visit the Doctor as it might be helpful in the re-administration of medications in cases where the current medications cause severe side effects. Taking the journal while going to see the Doctor could also help in the exploration of possible new medications.


Over half of the people living daily with epilepsy do not know the cause of their epilepsy even after undergoing several medical tests and analysis by professional medical practitioners. This automatically means no specific cause of epilepsy has been identified. However, only a few people living with epilepsy have been able to successfully discover the cause of their epilepsy after so much diagnosis, tests and inquiries. The factors that cause epilepsy in most people include;

Genetic Influence

Here, epilepsy is part of the family history. It occurs when a direct relative, either parents or siblings, is epileptic. Researchers have been able to connect epilepsy tendencies to a particular gene.

Head Injury or Trauma

Head trauma could be a result of dangerous falls with a hit to the head, car accidents, and other injuries that can disrupt the activities of the brain.

Prenatal Injury

Some factors such as infection to the mother, oxygen deficiency, and poor nutrition can cause brain damage for a child while in the womb. When such children are born, there is a high tendency that they become epileptic, and more chances that they develop cerebral palsy.


Some diseases such as AIDS, encephalitis, and meningitis can lead to epilepsy.

Brain Condition

The cause of epilepsy in older adults over 35 years of age is stroke. Stroke is a health condition that affects the brain and causes some damages to the brain.

Developmental Disorders

Neurofibromatosis and autism can also lead to epilepsy, especially in children.

Risk Factors

  • Age; anyone of any age grade can develop epilepsy. Nonetheless, it is more common in children than in adults.
  • Family history; one has a higher chance of being epileptic if any direct relative has it, especially the parents.
  • Stroke; vascular disorders like a stroke can cause damage to the brain, leading to epilepsy.
  • Head trauma; having past head traumas or injuries can heighten one’s chances of suffering from epilepsy.
  • Childhood seizures, convulsions, and high fevers in early childhood can cause epilepsy. Though there are slim chances that fever and convulsions singlehandedly lead to epilepsy. However, other factors like family history and brain trauma can combine forces with high childhood fever and convulsions to cause epilepsy.
  • Dementia; in older adults, dementia increases the risks of epilepsy.


  • Complications from pregnancy
  • Psychological and emotional stress
  • Sudden death from epilepsy
  • Inability to regain consciousness after the seizure
  • Permanent body damage, especially for seizures that last for more than 5 minutes

See a Doctor When…

  • The seizure episode lasts for over 5 minutes.
  • Consciousness and regular breathing take a longer time to get restored after each incident.
  • You notice you have a high fever.
  • You have underlying diabetes.
  • You sustained an injury during the seizure episode.
  • Another seizure occurs immediately after the first.
  • You notice you develop heat exhaustion.
  • You are pregnant
  • You notice you had a seizure for the very first time in your life


  • Epilepsy has no cure. However, there are management methods that, when coupled with Doctors’ treatment, can help improve your condition and also help reduce the impacts of seizures. Some of these management tips include;
  • Keeping a seizure journal or diary to help monitor triggers and treatment routines
  • Orientate people around you to give them a clue about what to do for you in emergency cases
  • Wear alert bracelets to alert people when you experience a seizure and cannot speak
  • Always go to the hospital to seek professional medical help.
  • Join a group of people with the same disorder
  • Eat well, eat healthily and eat balanced diets.
  • Engage yourself in physical activities to shake off depression and remain strong

In conclusion, epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes the brain to malfunction. A number of triggers have been identified to be the cause of constant recurrent epileptic episodes. Though epilepsy has no known cure, it can be managed. It is important to always visit the hospital for regular check-ups to prevent complications.