Understanding Epilepsy Essay

2231 words - 9 pages

Epilepsy is a condition in which the afflicted person experiences recurrent seizures, of which there are many varieties. These seizures have many causes (but the mechanism of some of these causes are still unknown) and treatment options. In some cases they can even be completely controlled. However, when they are not controlled it is very important to react in the correct way otherwise there is a risk of further endangering the patient who is having a seizure.
Epilepsy was not always known to be a medical issue. Epilepsy was thought to be caused by spirits, demons or divine experiences, like many cultures such as the Hmong believed (they still do). The first occurrence of epilepsy being considered a medical issue dates back to around 400 BC with the Greek physician Hippocrates. Although Hippocrates believed epilepsy to be a condition caused by “an imbalance of the four humours (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile),” which we now know is wrong, he did correctly believe that the condition was involved with the brain. The next person to believe in epilepsy as a medical problem was an English doctor, John Hughlings Jackson in the late 19th century. Jackson “formulated the modern definition of epilepsy: An occasional, excessive, and disorderly discharge of nerve tissue.” He also said that “This discharge occurs in all degrees; it occurs with all sorts of conditions of ill health at all ages, and under innumerable circumstances.” Jackson was pretty much spot on with his definition and that was over a century ago. (Browne p.1)
With advances in technology over the years we've been able to learn even more about epilepsy and seizures, like how and why they occur in some cases. The brain is composed of a network of neurons that communicate by receiving and sending electrical impulses, either excitatory or inhibitory. By using an EEG machine we can record these electrical impulses and see whether or not they are normal or abnormal patterns. Under normal conditions the pattern we would see is called a spike-and-slow-wave discharge. “The spike phase shows an abnormally excitatory electrical output inside single brain cells; the slow-wave phase indicates an electrical input into the same cells that is inhibitory.” (Middleton P. 7) During a seizure we only see the spike phase occurring which means there is a self-perpetuating spread of discharges through the network of neurons. Basically, a large pathway of neurons fires off at once and during that brief period those neurons can't function normally and a seizure occurs. Seizures may differ based on which part of the brain there is an abnormal discharge, how many neurons are involved and how long the discharge lasts.
“Epilepsy is usually classified by the type of seizure the person has”(Sands P.7) and seizures are classified by the International Classification System. The ICS divides seizures into two main groups: partial or focal, in which only part of the brain...

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