Epilepsy causes thunderstorms in the brain

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Day of epilepsy is to educate about illness

Epilepsy Day takes place on October 5 with numerous information events. The main focus this year is "epilepsy in early childhood", because these are often only recognized late. Although epilepsy is just as common as rheumatoid arthritis, few know how it comes to the sometimes bizarre seizures and what to do in such a situation.

About one percent of the population suffers from epilepsy Thomas Porschen, Chairman of the State Association for Epilepsy Self-Help North Rhine-Westphalia, himself suffered from recurrent seizures for about 15 years. He reports a tingling sensation that extends from the stomach to the left calf. "And then a spiral of fear sets in, because you know exactly that the next attack is imminent." Porschen knows that people who are watching an epileptic attack for the first time are often completely overwhelmed and scared. "They just didn't know what they should do, ”he told the news agency“ dpa ”about strangers who suddenly stood around him and were afraid of his seizures. But he actually needed someone "who asks in a calm voice: Are you okay, are you all right?"

Inge Wertheim also reports of shocked people whom she looked into the face after she was briefly aware of an attack. "Nobody understands that if they haven't experienced it themselves before." The 67-year-old is ashamed of her seizures, "because then I lose control and even wet myself. It's just embarrassing. ”But Inge Wertheim doesn't give up. In the meantime, together with her neurologist, she has found drugs that prevent the seizures. She has been symptom-free for over 14 months. “Now I finally have the courage to go abroad. I used to be afraid of going to a hospital if I had a seizure and nobody understood me because of the foreign language, ”reports the pensioner.

Many still believe that epilepsy is a mental handicap or an intellectual disability. Epilepsy is based on a dysfunction of the brain. "This could be a genetic disorder, a tumor, a skull injury from an accident or a stroke, and this can lead to seizures," explains Thomas Mayer, managing director of the German Society for Epileptology to the "dpa". "Epilepsy is not to be understood as an isolated illness, but as a co-illness ”.

"Many patients work in high-performing positions," adds Professor Christian Elger from the German Neurological Society in Berlin. "If the cause of the epileptic seizures limits the overall performance of the brain, it can also lead to intellectual impairment in addition to the seizures."

Epilepsy manifests itself in different types of seizures. Physicians only speak of epilepsy if several seizures have occurred within a certain period of time. "But after a first attack you would start therapy if you found a high risk of developing epilepsy," reports Mayer. A seizure is like a thunderstorm of the nerve cells in the brain, which discharge uncontrollably. "It can start in a small area and spread across the whole brain," says the managing director of the German Society for Epileptology. There are seizures that last only seconds, in which the person appears absent. Other epilepsy patients experience perceptual disturbances during the attack and show strange behaviors such as the sudden production of strange sounds. The seizures can also occur much more strongly and last for minutes. "The patients become very stiff and develop enormous strength, they twitch rhythmically, become unconscious and fall to the ground, which can sometimes cause fractures," Elger told the "dpa". “But it only takes a maximum of one and a half minutes. It can sometimes take half an hour or more for those affected to reorganize. ”If it takes five minutes or more for the sufferer to cramp, Mayer advises that the emergency doctor be called as this may be a life-threatening series of seizures.

Epilepsy is usually easy to treat with medication. As the State Association for Epilepsy Self-Help in North Rhine-Westphalia informs, the risk of epilepsy is particularly high in the first years of life and from the age of 60. Affected people do not necessarily suffer from the disease for a lifetime. It often only affects one phase of life.

To diagnose epilepsy, the patient's medical history is recorded and an electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to measure brain waves. In addition, there are often imaging examinations. As a rule, epilepsy patients receive anticonvulsant medications called anticonvulsants, which do not cure the disease, but can prevent the seizures. "It has been proven that approximately two thirds of all patients lead to seizures," reports Elger. The cause remains, however, so that "after a possible withdrawal of the medication, there is a high probability of new seizures, often with delays of up to one year and more". In rare, particularly severe cases, surgical interventions are also carried out.

Those affected particularly feel the unpredictability of the seizures as particularly restrictive for their lives. A so-called epilepsy emergency ID, which the patients always carry with them, helps many to alleviate their fears somewhat. "When people with severe epilepsy carry it with them, they feel safer and dare to take to the streets again," reports Porschen.

Epilepsy patients are often confronted with the concerns and well-intentioned advice of relatives and acquaintances, although most would like to be treated as normal. "To do this, you have to make it clear to your surroundings: Please don't restrict me, I know exactly where my limits are," explains Porschen. (ag)

Read also about epilepsy:
Development of epilepsy decoded
Epilepsy: sharp increase in spending
Mechanism of brain development deciphered

Author and source information

Video: What Happens in Your Brain During a Seizure. WebMD


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