Epilepsy awarenessNational Pharmacies
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world. Over 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy. In Australia the number is approximately 250,000 people. Epilepsy is also associated with a 2-3 increase in the risk of death compared to the general population. Based on these figures it is clear the Epilepsy creates a great burden on the health care system in Australia. But the question must be asked; So, what is epilepsy?
The brain is made up of millions of nerve cells called neurons. These conduct electrical impulses and messages to produce thoughts, feelings, movement and to control bodily functions. Sometimes these electrical impulses can be disrupted by an external cause, which can lead to rapid conduction of electrical impulses. This is what is called a seizure. Seizures can result in changes to your level of consciousness, sensation, and movement depending on where in the brain the seizure occurs.
Epilepsy is a disease of the brain characterised by recurrent seizures. It is diagnosed when the following criteria have been met:
- At least 2 unprovoked seizures
- One unprovoked seizure, and a probability of further seizures occurring
Diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome
Epilepsy is primarily diagnosed in early childhood, adolescence, and in people over the age of 65. The cause of epilepsy is wide and varied depending on the individual. They are as follows:
- Congenital conditions (e.g. Down Syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis)
- Genetic factors
- Brain malformations
- Head trauma
- Stroke (elderly)
- Alzheimer’s disease (elderly)
- Brain tumour (rare)
- Progressive brain disease
The aim of treatment is not only to reduce the frequency of seizures, but to improve their quality of life of patients.
Examples of treatment are:
- Must be taken regularly in order to avoid seizures recurring
Examples of medication: sodium valproate, carbamazepine
- Only indicated for certain types of seizures
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
- Pacemaker device to stimulate the left vagus nerve in the neck
- Ketogenic diets (high protein and fat, low carb) has shown benefits in children with uncontrolled epilepsy, as well as adults to assist with seizure control
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder, with a variety of causes, and which can significantly impact the quality of life of people. Thankfully, control of the disease can be realistically achieved by utilising the therapies listed above, which can improve and prolong people’s lives.
Author: Robyn Johns
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