What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic, long-term ongoing disease caused by various lesions of the central nervous system and manifests itself in paroxysmal states, and subsequently characteristic personality changes. In the most unfavorable course, the disease leads to the so-called epileptic dementia.
The disease has been known since ancient times. In the literature there are more than 30 different names for its designation, including: black disease, epilepsy, sacred disease, Hercules disease (according to the legends, this mythical character suffered from this disease), “morbis comitialis” (from the Roman “comitio” – the senate; if during his meeting someone developed a seizure, then the meeting was immediately dissolved).
With regard to epilepsy, they are not definitively established. In total, 50 million people have the disease in the world, which corresponds to 6 patients per 1000 population. If we talk about individual countries, then, unlike schizophrenia, the disease is mainly common in developing countries. Also, the prevalence of epilepsy is largely determined by the age of patients. The peak occurs in infants and older children. After 10 years, the incidence rate decreases slightly. It should be mentioned that more than 3/4 of all patients belong to the age group under 18 years old.
Almost everyone can develop an epileptic seizure, depending on the environment. Any person is characterized by a certain threshold of seizure activity, which determines the force of influence on the brain necessary for the development of an attack. For the vast majority of people, this threshold is high enough that in normal daily life they never have seizures. However, in a small group of people, this threshold is at a rather low level, so much so that seizures occur at a certain frequency spontaneously, without external intervention. The reasons for the development of the disease in different age groups are different.
The most common causes of the disease:
1. Hereditary factors. The significance of this factor is evidenced by the equally high morbidity and similar clinical picture of the disease in identical twins. The problem is that the currently studied mechanism of changes in the genetic apparatus and their further transmission to offspring is insufficiently fully studied . In addition, recently, various scientists have increasingly expressed the opinion that it is not the disease itself that is inherited, but only a predisposition to it. Each person has a certain, genetically inherent only to him inherent level of convulsive activity. Its further implementation will depend, in turn, on many other factors.
2. Development disorders of the brain. This factor is largely related to the previous one. These two factors are most significant in childhood. They are responsible for the development of epilepsy in almost half of children. Disturbances in the development of the central nervous system can be caused by both genetic diseases and infections, the effect of harmful substances on the body of a pregnant mother, and a disease of her internal organs.
3. In third place among the causes of illness in the child population are various infections . Moreover, the younger the child underwent an infectious process, the greater the likelihood of developing epileptic seizures in the future, the harder they are. Most often, meningitis and encephalitis are the causes. However, with an appropriate level of seizure activity, any infectious disease, including the banal flu, can lead to the development of the clinic.
4. Brain trauma is also important . In this case, epileptic seizures do not appear immediately after exposure to a traumatic agent, but after a certain time, being the remote consequences of its action on the brain.
5. Violation of the blood supply to the brain due to various vascular diseases . It is rare in children and accounts for about 10% of all causes. Most often these are not secondary diseases, but various congenital anomalies in the development of cerebral vessels.
6. Tumors of the brain. In childhood, they practically do not occur. They are most common in old age. In this age group, acquired lesions of cerebral vessels also play a large role, most often as a result of stroke or atherosclerosis.
In addition, a number of so-called provoking factors stand out, the main of which are the following:
1. Reflex. Epileptic seizures are not always spontaneous. In some cases, they can be caused by strong external stimuli: bright light, sound, pain, motion sickness, etc.
2. Non-reflexive. In some cases, there is a clear dynamics of seizures depending on the biorhythms of the body, for example, sleep – wakefulness, alcohol intake, stress, diseases of internal organs, diseases of the endocrine glands.