Frequently Ask Questions on Epilepsy
I had signed up to help at Karmayog a while
ago. Heres something that I have compiled on Epilepsy.
ONE in every 100 persons in India
suffers from epilepsy, but the majority of the affected people
remain untreated. That there is an urgent need to work out basic
standards of treatment for epilepsy that is accessible to all
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in
which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes
signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal
activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions,
and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of
consciousness. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes.
Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity -
from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development - can
lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality
in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called
neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. Having a
seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only
when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered
to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test
there any treatment?
Once epilepsy is
diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.
For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures
can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques.
Some antiepiletic drugs can interfere with the effectiveness of
oral contraceptives. In 1997, the FDA approved the vagus nerve
stimulator for use in people with seizures that are not
well-controlled by medication.
is the prognosis?
Most people with
epilepsy lead outwardly normal lives. While epilepsy cannot
currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away.
Most seizures do not cause brain damage. It is not uncommon for
people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioral
and emotional problems, sometimes the consequence of embarrassment
and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and
other social setting. For many people with epilepsy, the risk of
seizures restricts their independence (some states refuse drivers
licenses to people with epilepsy) and recreational activities.
People with epilepsy are at special risk for two life-threatening
conditions: status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death. Most
women with epilepsy can become pregnant, but they should discuss
their epilepsy and the medications they are taking with their
doctors. Women with epilepsy have a 90 percent or better chance of
having a normal, healthy baby.
research is being done?
Scientists are studying
potential antiepileptic drugs with goal of enhancing treatment for
epilepsy. Scientists continue to study how neurotransmitters
interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how
non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. One of the
most-studied neurotransmitters is GABA, or gamma-aminobutryic
acid. Researchers are working to identify genes that may influence
epilepsy. This information may allow doctors to prevent epilepsy
or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial. Doctors
are now experimenting with several new types of therapies for
epilepsy, including transplanting fetal pig neurons into the
brains of patients to learn whether cell transplants can help
control seizures, transplanting stem cells, and using a device
that could predict seizures up to 3 minutes before they begin.
Researchers are continually improving MRI and other brain scans.
Studies have show that in some case, children may experience fewer
seizures if they maintain a strict diet - called the ketogenic
diet - rich in fats and low in carbohydrates.
URL : www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm
Indian practice and philosophy of yoga is increasingly becoming a
focal point of therapy and research in treating epileptic seizure
disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that
around 50 million people in the world have epilepsy. About 75 per
cent of these are with seizure disorders, and they hardly receive
any medical treatment.
an ancient yet amazingly modern approach to treating seizures. The
ancient Indian texts, Vedas
describe four types of epilepsy and nine disorders causing
convulsions in children. As therapy, the physical discipline of
yoga seeks to re-establish a balance (union) between those aspects
of a person's health that cause seizures.
Illnesses, One Common Symptom
Seizure disorder (or epilepsy) is one of the oldest recorded
afflictions of humankind. "Epilepsy" is a word used to
describe many illnesses with one common symptom — seizures that
disrupt the normal activity of the central nervous system. There
are dozens of disorders, which may cause seizures. In the language
epilepsy is called "Apasmara," meaning loss of
Therapy for Seizures
Nandan Yardi, head of the Yardi
Epilepsy Clinic, Kothrud, Pune, India, speaks of the "yogas,"
when writing about seizure disorders. He points out that seizures,
like physical diseases, result when there are imbalances in the
various physical and psychological systems (unions) of the body.
Yoga is one of the oldest formal practices known whose purpose is
to restore this balance.
or Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing
As a person slips into a seizure state, s/he should reflexively
catch and hold their breath, as if startled or frightened. This
causes changes in metabolism, blood flow, and oxygen levels in the
brain. The practice of pranayama, i.e., controlled deep
diaphragmatic breathing helps restore normal respiration, which
can reduce the chances of going into a seizure or stop seizures
before they become full blown.
The "asanas" or "yogasanas" aid in restoring
balance to the body and its metabolic systems. Practicing asanas
increase physical stamina and calm the nervous system. Asanas,
used as a physical exercise alone, improve circulation,
respiration, and concentration while decreasing the chances of
having a seizure.
Stress is a well-recognized trigger of seizure activity. "Dhyana"
or meditation soothes the mind as it heals the body. Meditation
improves blood flow to the brain and slows the production of
stress hormones. Meditation also increases the levels of
neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which keep the body's nervous
system calm. Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga
meditation, is well known as a definitive aid in seizure control.
into Yoga for Seizures
In 1996, The Indian Journal of Medical Research published
the results of a study on the effects of "Sahaja Yoga"
practice on seizure control. The study was not large enough to be
considered conclusive. However, its results were so promising, the
study caught the attention of researchers in Europe and the North
America. In this study, a group of patients with epilepsy
practicing "Sahaja Yoga" for six months experienced an
86 per cent decrease in their seizure frequency.
carried out at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS,
New Delhi) found that meditation improved the brain wave activity
of people with seizure disorders leading to a reduction in
seizures. In a similar study conducted in the United States
concluded that patients who learned to control their breathing had
an improvement in their seizure frequency. Dr. Steven Pacia is
currently conducting a study
at the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center on the
use of yoga to decrease seizures in epileptic persons. The art and
science of yoga is being discovered anew as a valuable approach to
exercise self-control of seizures.
URL : http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa122501a.htm