From being perceived as an incurable form of mental illness to farfetched theories such as demonic possession, many myths have continuously provided the general public with misinformation about what epilepsy truly constitutes.

The fourth most common neurological disorder in the world, epilepsy is caused by sudden surges of abnormal and excessive electrical activity within the brain. This situation leads to an occurrence known as epileptic seizures, which are generally recurrent that may involve a part of the body (Focal Onset Seizures) or the entire body (Generalised Onset Seizures). Experiencing only a single seizure and none after does not indicate that a person is epileptic, as over 10% of the world’s population have experienced a single seizure during their lifetime. Instead, epilepsy is defined through the occurrence of two or more seizures.

Focal onset seizures used to be known as Partial Onset Seizures. There are two types of focal seizures. The first is known as a Focal onset aware seizure, which indicates wakefulness and awareness when a seizure is occurring. The second is called a Focal onset impaired awareness seizure, during which the person experiences confusion and loss of consciousness during the seizure. Generalised onset seizures on the other hand, are categorised into six different types of seizures:

  • Absence Seizures
    More common in children, absence seizures are identified through a blank stare alongside eye-blinking, lip-smacking and finger rubbing motions. This seizure, formerly known as petit mal seizure was often mistaken as daydreaming in children due to the symptoms exhibited and short time friend (usually 10 seconds or less)
  • Atonic Seizures
    An atonic seizure exhibits loss of muscle control that cause overall muscle weakness. Parts of the body such as eyelids and head may droop during the seizure, and some people may actually even fall to the ground when the seizure occurs (usually 15 seconds or less)
  • Tonic Seizures
    Tonic seizures on the other hand causes muscles to stiffen, which usually affect either the arms, legs, back or even the whole body, causing the individual to fall down.
  • Clonic Seizures
    Clonic seizures display fast, repeated stiffening and relaxation of the muscles and usually occur when the muscles continuously jerk for a few seconds up to a minute
  • Tonic-Clonic Seizures
    A combination of experiencing the stiffening of the muscles and repetitive rhythmic jerking of the muscles, this form of a seizure is known as grand mal and happens to be what people would usually describe an epileptic seizure in general. Individuals experience the symptoms that come with both tonic and clonic seizures, while also biting their tongue, drooling in addition to losing muscle functions of the bowel and bladder.
  • Myoclonic Seizures
    Lasting usually for a couple of seconds, this type of seizure causes brief twitches of the muscles.

    The attributes of an epileptic seizure often depend on the location of disturbance within the brain where it begins and the extent of its effects. The first and most prominent symptom that indicates epilepsy within an individual is recurring seizures.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Temporary loss of awareness and consciousness
  • Loss of control over muscle movements
  • A look that reflects a ‘blank stare’
  • Temporary confusion slowed thinking, problems with speech and perception
  • Sudden changes in hearing, vision, taste, smell and feelings of numbness
  • Heart rate that is faster than normal

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with our Neurologist to find out more about your health condition.

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