Epilepsy: What It Is, Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on 6 June 2023

Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the nervous (central) system and causes abnormal brain activity. This results in seizures or episodes of abnormal behaviour and sometimes loss of consciousness and awareness.


People from all races, ethnicity, age, and genders can develop epilepsy. Seizure episodes can vary among individuals. Some stare blankly while in the episode, while others twitch their arms and legs, and some have full-blown convulsions. If people with epilepsy have two seizures or more per day, they might need immediate medical attention. 

The following are the symptoms of epilepsy:

  • Staring spell
  • Stiff muscle
  • Temporary confusion
  • Deja vu, fear, or anxiety
  • Uncontrollable twitching of arms and legs
  • Fits

What are the Treatments for Epilepsy?

If you are experiencing any symptoms mentioned above, seek a neurologist's consultation. To confirm it is epilepsy and not some behavioural changes, the neurologist will conduct a clinical evaluation and a few electrophysiological tests.

Upon confirmation of epilepsy, an individual with the condition is given antiepileptic drugs (AED). However, sometimes AEDs don't work and require more invasive methods, like surgery. 

When to consider Epilepsy Surgery?

Like any other medical condition, extreme seizures due to epilepsy require primary care. Anybody with focal epilepsy that cannot be treated with AEDs or if the condition is causing severe impairment in one's life might require surgery. 

Epilepsy surgery is done to:

  • Stop seizures or lessen their intensity
  • Minimize the side effects of the surgery
  • Reduce the number of deaths caused by seizures

The surgery involves the removal of a part of the brain where seizures occur. It is usually effective when a seizure occurs only in one part of the brain. Neurologists do not always recommend surgery until two AEDs have failed to contain the seizure. 

Studies have shown numerous benefits of epilepsy surgery for seizure control and psychiatric symptoms. In addition to this, it also improves the quality of life. This is evident from the past that successful surgeries can increase life expectancy. 

What are the Types of Epilepsy Surgery?

Abnormal and erratic electrical activity in the brain due to chemo transmitters, results in epileptic seizures. The location of the derangement determines which surgery is required, considering the age of the patient. 

Below are the types of surgery usually recommended by the surgeon:

  • Deep Brain Stimulation: A device is placed deep inside the brain, which releases electric signals at specific intervals to disrupt seizure-inducing activities. 
  • Hemispherectomy: This surgery is usually performed in children who experience seizures in one hemisphere from multiple sites. In this procedure, one side of the brain, the cerebral cortex, is removed. 
  • Functional Hemispherectomy: This surgery is usually performed in children and involves the removal of the connecting nerves. 
  • Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT): This surgery is guided by an MRI, which involves a laser destroying a small brain portion. 

Is Epilepsy Surgery Safe?

Epilepsy surgery is a safe procedure. Hence, the life risk is low compared to other procedures. But there are a few complications involved during the surgery. According to research, minor complications were reported among 7.7% of patients, and only 0.6% of the patients faced significant complications like: 

  • Loss of Peripheral Vision
  • Headache
  • Speech and Language Problems
  • Stroke
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak (CSF)

The outcome of the surgery depends on the type of surgery performed. Hence, it can be an excellent option for someone who has seizures only in one part of the brain and is unresponsive to medication. Always consult with neurosurgeons for risks & benefits before going for the surgery.





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