What happens when epilepsy is triggered?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The triggers that set off these seizures can be quite varied, from stress and lack of sleep to flashing lights or specific patterns. When an epilepsy seizure
trigger is present, the brain's normal electrical activity becomes disrupted, leading to a sudden and intense surge of electrical activity that results in a seizure.
In this blog, we will delve into what is epilepsy, explore what happens when this condition is triggered and epilepsy causes.
What happens When Epilepsy Is Triggered?
When epilepsy seizure is triggered, the abnormal electrical activity in the brain leads to a sudden surge of electrical energy, known as a seizure. This surge of energy disrupts the normal functioning of the brain, leading to changes in consciousness, movement, and sensation. The exact symptoms of a seizure depend on the type of epilepsy and the area of the brain that is affected. Some people with epilepsy may experience a simple partial seizure, which only involves a localized area of the brain and does not lead to a loss of consciousness.
Other people may experience a more complex seizure, known as a complex partial seizure, which involves a loss of consciousness and repetitive movements or behaviors. In some cases, a seizure may spread from a localized area of the brain to involve the entire brain, leading to a generalized tonic-clonic seizure characterized by muscle stiffness and jerking. Regardless of the type of epilepsy seizure, the experience of epilepsy is often overwhelming and disruptive, affecting not just the individual with the condition, but also those around them.
What Are the Types of Seizures?
- Focal aware seizures: Focal aware seizures, also known as simple partial seizures, are seizures where the person remains conscious but experiences a change in sensation or perception. These sensations can be things like a sudden strange taste in the mouth, a strange smell, or an odd feeling in the body.
- Focal impaired awareness seizures: Focal impaired awareness seizures, also known as complex partial epilepsy seizure, result in some loss of consciousness or an altered state of awareness. This can result in repetitive movements like hand rubbing or an odd behavior, such as making repetitive sounds. During these seizures, the person's level of consciousness is reduced, and they may not be fully aware of their surroundings.
- Focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures: This type of seizure starts as a focal seizure, meaning it affects only one side of the body, but then becomes bilateral and affects both sides of the body. The person experiences muscle stiffness, a fall, and muscle jerking. This type of seizure is often referred to as a grand mal seizure.
- Gelastic and dacrystic seizures: Gelastic and dacrystic seizures are rare types of seizures that are often associated with hypothalamic hamartomas, which are benign tumors in the hypothalamus. These seizures are characterized by sudden bouts of laughter or crying, which are not related to the person's emotional state.
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures: Generalized tonic-clonic seizures involve muscle stiffness and muscle jerking throughout the entire body. The person may also lose consciousness during the seizure. This type of seizure is often referred to as a grand mal seizure.
- Tonic seizures: Tonic epilepsy seizure causes the muscles to suddenly become stiff, resulting in a fall or injury. These seizures can last several seconds and can cause a person to become unconscious.
- Clonic seizures: Clonic seizures cause repetitive and rhythmic jerking movements of the muscles. These seizures can last several seconds and can cause a person to become unconscious.
- Absence seizures: Absence seizures, also known as petit mal seizures, are characterized by a sudden loss of consciousness, during which the person stares into space and does not respond to their surroundings. These seizures are typically brief, lasting only a few seconds, and do not cause any physical harm.
- Myoclonic seizures: Myoclonic seizures cause sudden, brief muscle jerks. These seizures can affect one or more muscle groups and may be isolated events or occur in clusters.
- Atonic seizures: Atonic seizures cause the muscles to suddenly become weak, resulting in a fall. These seizures are also known as drop attacks and can cause the person to become unconscious.
- Nonepileptic events: Nonepileptic events are often mistaken for seizures but are not related to epilepsy. They may be caused by psychological or physical stress, alcohol or drug use, or sleep disorders. These events can cause symptoms like seizures, such as muscle contractions or loss of consciousness, but are not caused by changes in the brain's electrical activity.
What Are the Causes of Seizures?
Seizures can be caused by a variety of factors, including structural brain abnormalities, genetic factors, infectious diseases, head injury, stroke, brain tumors, drug or alcohol abuse, and metabolic disorders.
Structural Brain Abnormalities
- Congenital brain malformations: Some individuals may be born with structural brain abnormalities, such as cortical dysplasia, that increase their risk of seizures.
- Brain injury: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can lead to seizures. Even mild head injuries can cause seizures if they cause damage to the brain.
- Inherited epilepsy: Some types of seizures are inherited, meaning they run in families. Several genetic mutations have been linked to various forms of epilepsy.
- Infections of the central nervous system (CNS): Certain infections of the CNS, such as meningitis and encephalitis, can trigger seizures.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV can cause a variety of neurological symptoms, including seizures.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
- Drug abuse: Certain drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, can cause seizures.
- Alcohol abuse: Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to seizures, particularly when a person abruptly stops drinking (alcohol withdrawal seizures).
- Electrolyte imbalances: Electrolyte imbalances, such as low levels of sodium or calcium, can trigger seizures.
- Liver or kidney failure: These organs play important roles in the regulation of several metabolic processes, including the regulation of electrolyte levels. Seizures can occur as a result of liver or kidney failure.
- Brain tumors can cause seizures by putting pressure on the brain or causing abnormal electrical activity.
It's important to note that sometimes the epilepsy causes cannot be determined (idiopathic epilepsy). In these cases, a thorough evaluation is necessary to determine the best course of treatment.