Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Tony from Greenwich, CT. Tony Wonders, “What is epilepsy?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tony!
Do you value your health? Most of us would say we certainly do. However, there are plenty of times that we take it for granted. Come down with a bad case of the flu, and you'll be rejoicing when it passes and you feel normal again.
Sometimes people struggle with conditions that are unpredictable. How would you feel if you had a condition that affected your brain and central nervous system in such a way that, at any moment, you could fall to the ground, lose consciousness, and begin shaking violently?
That's the case with people who have a condition called epilepsy. People with epilepsy are prone to having seizures, which are sometimes known as convulsions, fits, or spells. The term "epilepsy" comes from a Greek word that means "to hold or seize."
Your brain constantly sends out electrical signals through your nerves to your muscles during normal activities. Seizures result from abnormalities in the brain's electrical activity.
During seizures, epileptics can't control their muscles. Their muscles may contract and relax rapidly, causing them to stiffen, fall down, or shake.
In other types of seizures, their muscles may stop moving completely, causing them to stare into space like they're frozen. Seizures usually last only a few seconds to a few minutes.
Although some people might experience a weird feeling (called an aura) right before a seizure, most seizures happen suddenly without any warning. After a seizure, epileptics are often tired and don't remember what happened.
Epilepsy affects over three million Americans of all ages and races. There are many different types of epilepsy. Some people may have seizures every day, while others only experience them occasionally.
Seizures might happen at any time of day, limiting people from operating vehicles or certain types of equipment. Others might have a type of epilepsy that only causes seizures at night while they're sleeping.
People usually get diagnosed with epilepsy only after they've had an unexplained seizure. Doctors may do a number of tests, such as a CAT scan, an MRI, or an electroencephalogram (EEG), to look for abnormalities in the brain and its activity.
Some types of epilepsy can be traced to a particular brain disorder or injury. More than half the time, however, doctors can't identify a clear cause for epilepsy.
Fortunately, there are a number of medicines available that can help epileptics reduce or eliminate the danger of seizures. Other treatment options can include special diets, vagal nerve stimulation, and surgery.
If medication completely eliminates seizures, epileptics can lead normal lives. If, however, seizures still happen frequently and randomly, especially during the day, epilepsy can have a significant impact on day-to-day life.
Epileptics often must take special caution in potentially-dangerous areas, such as bathtubs and high places. They may also be prevented from participating in sports or other strenuous activities.