Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects more than 50 million people worldwide. It is characterized by the presence of recurrent seizures caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. These seizures can vary in their frequency and duration, as well as in their intensity and characteristics.
What are the types of epilepsy?
It is important that healthcare professionals are familiar with the different types of epilepsy, in order to provide proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Focal or Partial Epilepsy
This type occurs when abnormal electrical activity is limited to one part of the brain. Symptoms may vary depending on the part of the brain affected, but usually include seizures, language, behavior, movement, and/or sensory disturbances.
- Generalized epilepsy
This occurs when abnormal electrical activity affects the entire brain. Symptoms may include tonic, clonic, myoclonic, atonic, or absence seizures. Idiopathic epilepsy Occurs without a known cause and usually begins in childhood or adolescence. Fortunately, most people with idiopathic epilepsy have a good response to treatment.
- Cryptogenic epilepsy
In cryptogenic epilepsy, the underlying cause of the seizures cannot be determined. This means that despite the diagnostic tests performed, no brain lesion or structural abnormality has been identified that could explain the seizures.
Often, cryptogenic epilepsy is diagnosed after other possible causes of seizures, such as traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors, autoimmune diseases, or brain infections, have been ruled out.
- Symptomatic epilepsy
This occurs as a result of a brain injury, genetic disorder, or infection. It can be difficult to treat and require specialized evaluation and treatment.
Who is at higher risk of developing it?
This neurological disorder can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity, or social class. However, some groups of people are at higher risk of developing it than others. Here are some examples:
- Children and young people: The disease is most common in children and young people under 20 years of age. It is estimated that half of all people who develop epilepsy do so before the age of 25.
- Older people: Although it is more common in children and young people, it can also affect older people. As people age, their brain can become more prone to seizures.
- People with a family history of epilepsy: Having a family member with the disease makes it more likely to develop the condition as well.
- People with brain injuries: Having suffered a traumatic brain injury or a brain infection can increase the risk of developing epilepsy.
- People with neurological disorders: Having another neurological disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis, increases the risk of developing epilepsy.
- People with mental health problems: Suffering from psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, increases the risk of developing the disease.
What symptoms do you have?
Below we will list and explain some of the most common symptoms of epilepsy:
- Seizures: Seizures are the most common symptom. They are characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can cause involuntary movements of the body, such as jerking of the arms and legs, falling to the ground, chewing or eye movements, and muscle twitching. The duration and intensity of seizures can vary.
- Loss of consciousness: In some cases, seizures can be so severe that a person loses consciousness and passes out. This is known as a tonic-clonic seizure, also known as a grand mal.
- Sensory disturbances: Seizures can also affect a person’s ability to process sensory information. This can manifest as changes in vision, taste, smell, or hearing.
- Emotional changes: Seizures can interfere with a person’s emotional activity. This can manifest as sudden mood swings, irritability, or aggressiveness.
- Memory problems: The disease can affect a person’s ability to remember recent events or learn new skills. This can be an especially troublesome symptom in school-age children.
- Balance and coordination problems: This problem can affect a person’s ability to maintain balance and physical coordination, making them more prone to falls or injuries.
- Disorientation: Seizures can cause temporary disorientation, which can make a person feel confused or disoriented.
- Feeling of “deja vu”: In some cases, it can cause a feeling of “deja vu” in a person, which can make them feel as if they are experiencing something that has happened before.
In conclusion, this neurological disorder can have a wide variety of symptoms. It is important to note that not everyone with the disease experiences the same symptoms, and the frequency and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
How is it diagnosed?
Its diagnosis is made through clinical evaluation and complementary tests such as electroencephalography (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and blood analysis.
What treatments are there?
There are several treatments, some of which are used in combination to control symptoms. Here we explain the main ones:
- Antiepileptic drugs: These are the first treatment option for most patients. These drugs help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. The doctor will choose a specific medication based on the patient’s age, the frequency and type of seizures, as well as other medical factors.
- Surgery: This may be considered for people who do not respond well to antiepileptic drugs and have an identifiable cause for their seizures. In some cases, the area of the brain that is causing the seizures may be removed. In other cases, surgery may be done to implant a device in the brain that helps control seizures.
- Nerve stimulation: Often used when surgery is not an option or has not been effective. A device similar to a pacemaker is implanted under the skin and sends electrical impulses through the nerves to help control seizures.
- Ketogenic diet: A low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet has been shown to reduce seizures in some people with epilepsy. This diet is called the ketogenic diet and may be recommended by a doctor if anti-epileptic drugs don’t work.
- Occupational therapy: May be helpful for some patients, especially those who have seizures that affect their ability to perform activities of daily living, as it can help people develop coping skills and reduce the impact of seizures on their daily lives.
In addition to the treatments mentioned, therapeutic exercise can be a useful tool to help people with epilepsy improve their strength, balance, and coordination. In this section, we will explore some therapeutic exercises that physiotherapists can use to help their patients with epilepsy:
– Stretching exercises Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle stiffness and prevent injury. For people with epilepsy, stretching can be especially helpful in improving balance and posture. Some stretching exercises that may be beneficial include:
– Hamstring stretch: The patient should sit on the floor with legs straight and toes pointing toward the ceiling. Afterward, you should lean forward and try to touch your toes.
– Hip Stretch: The patient should sit in a chair with their feet flat on the floor. Then you need to cross the ankle of one leg over the knee of the other leg and gently press the knee down.
– Neck stretch: The patient must sit or stand with the shoulders back and the chest raised. Next, you need to gently tilt your head to the side, holding the position for 20-30 seconds before changing sides.
- Strengthening exercises:
For people with epilepsy, they can be especially helpful in improving stability and balance. Some strengthening exercises that may be beneficial include:
– Squats: The patient should stand with their feet shoulder-width apart and their hands on their hips. Next, you should bend your knees and lower your body towards the floor, keeping your back straight. You should then push up through your heels to return to the starting position.
– Plank: The patient should lie on his stomach with his elbows resting on the floor and his hands clasped. You should then lift your body off the ground and hold the position for 20-30 seconds before lowering yourself back down.
– Leg raises: The patient should lie on his back with his hands under his hips. Then he should lift his legs off the ground and hold the position for 5-10 seconds before lowering back down.
- Balance exercises For people with epilepsy, balance exercises can be especially helpful in preventing injuries and improving quality of life. Some balance exercises that can be beneficial:
– Balance on one foot: The patient must stand on one foot with the arms at the sides of the body. They should then try to balance for 20-30 seconds before switching feet.
-Walking in a straight line: The patient should walk in a straight line, placing the feet one in front of the other, as if walking on a tightrope.
-Hip sway: The patient should stand with their feet shoulder-width apart and their hands on their hips. Next, he should swing his hip to one side and then the other, holding the position for 20-30 seconds on each side.
Therapeutic exercises can be a valuable tool to help these people improve their quality of life. Physical therapists may use stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises to help you improve flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination. It is important to tailor exercises to each patient’s individual needs and limitations and always consult with your physician before beginning any therapeutic exercise program.
In short, epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures that can affect anyone. However, some groups of people are at higher risk of developing it due to factors such as family history, brain injury, neurological or mental health disorders.
On the other hand, it is important that health professionals are familiar with the different types of epilepsy and the treatment options available in order to provide the best possible care for people with epilepsy.