Being a former epileptic child, I have always wondered what epilepsy is, what caused it and how it affects my body? No one in my family has ever been diagnosed with epilepsy, so why me? I may be the unfortunate one in my family, but I am very fortunate to be one of the lucky few children who have been living epilepsy free for 20 years. But there is still one question, I do often wonder about is, could my epilepsy reoccur as I age? I have seen and known people whom have recovered as a child for over 20 years, just to have it reoccur at an older age, from medication side effects or during pregnancy and childbirth. So, what is epilepsy?
According to Mayo Clinic staff on mayoclinic.com, Epilepsy is a “neurological disorder” that is also described as seizures. A seizure occurs when something disturbs the nerve cell activity in one’s brain, which can lead to convulsions, tremors or spasms (twitching of the arms and legs). This means that the brain’s neurons gets overly excited and starts firing electrical impulses in all direction uncontrollably causing the muscles in the body to contract. During a seizure one may lose consciousness, have abnormal sensation or behaviors and feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. There are many forms of seizures and the severities of the symptoms vary from person to person.
Epilepsy affects both children and adults of all ages. Epilepsy is often divided in to two categories: Absence seizures (petit mal) and Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal) with additional subcategories based on the symptoms of the seizures. What are Absence seizures and Tonic-clonic seizures? According to Marieb and Hoehn, in “Anatomy & Physiology” page 452-53, “Absence seizures, formerly known as petit mal, are mild forms in which the expression goes blank for a few seconds as consciousness disappears.” In regards to “Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly called grand mal, are the most severe, convulsive form of epileptic seizures (Marieb and Hoehn, p.453).” For example, during a tonic-clonic seizure, a person may fall to the ground losing consciousness, with intense convulsive muscle contractions, losing control of their arms and legs, and after a few minutes, the muscles start to relax and the person awakens but remains disoriented for several minutes because the seizures has affected their whole brain. On the contrary, Absence seizures often affect only parts of the brain and usually occur in young children and can go unnoticed because it happens so quickly. For example, a child may lose consciousness for a short period of time, and look as if he/she is daydreaming and be unresponsive for a few seconds and then is responsive the next second; resuming in normal activities once the seizure subsides.
What causes the brain’s neurons to fire these electrical impulses uncontrollably, that it interferes with the brain’s mental function and physical function of the body’s muscles? To answer this question, we must first look at the brain and...