What is it?
- Epilepsy is a long-term disease that causes repeated seizures due to abnormal electrical signals produced by damaged brain cells., causing convulsions, unusual behaviors and loss of consciousness.
- The area of the brain in which originate the electrical discharges is called epileptogenic focus. Epileptogenic focus can be inactive for long time, but when the activity of these neurons prevails over the rest of the others, the typical symptoms of the disease begin to appear.
There are different types of epilepsy.
Focal seizures are also called partial seizures since they begin in one area of the brain. They can be caused by any type of focal injury that leaves scar tangles and are divided into:
- Simple partial seizures are a form of seizure where a person does not lose consciousness, with the tingling or twitching of the upper limbs;
- Sensory seizures, characterized by hallucinations and changes in any of the five senses.
In both simple and sensory seizures, the patient may stare into space for a long period of time and may experience difficulty moving or swallowing.
Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain or groups of cells on both sides of the brain at the same time. These seizures are divided into further classes:
- Tonic seizures affect the muscles of the legs, arms and back and can cause the patient to fall to the ground;
- Absence seizures are brief seizures during which the patient is unresponsive. They are generally seen in children between 4 and 12 years of age;
- Myoclonic seizures consist of sudden body or limb jerks that can involve the arms, head and neck;
- Tonic-clonic seizures are the most severe forms of epilepsy. They are characterized by persistent, very strong convulsions and cause with loss of consciousness and urinary incontinence.
Primary or idiopathic epilepsy has unknown cause or mechanism of apparent spontaneous origin.
Secondary epilepsy can be caused by:
- Developmental disorders, such as autism;
- Fetal stresses, such as hypoxia, malnutrition,
- Infectious diseases with meningitis;
- Head trauma;
- Genetic factors.
Since epilepsy is a pathological condition that affects the brain, patients can experience:
- Severe seizures;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Leg and arm tremors;
- Muscles Stiffness.
There are several tests to diagnose epilepsy and determine the cause of seizures:
- A neurological examination is an assessment tool to determine a patient’s neurologic function.
- A neuropsychological examination evaluates brain functions such as memory, attention, language skills, and problem solving skills.;
- A blood tests evaluates infectious diseases or genetic predispositions;
- An electroencephalogram is the most used test to diagnose epilepsy in children;
- A computed tomography can detect brain tumors that could cause neuronal damage.
Epilepsy is treated through the use of anti-epileptic drugs that can help most people with epilepsy have fewer seizures, or stop having seizures completely. However, they can have side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, mental slowing, fatigue, weight loss, decreased bone mineral density, skin rashes, memory loss and depression.
In some cases, surgery is used to implant a vagus nerve stimulator to stimulate the vagus nerve. This helps prevent or shorten the length of seizures.
Evidence shows that ketogenic diet and its variants are a good alternative for non-surgical pharmacoresistant patients with epilepsy of any age.
Ketone bodies can alter neuronal activity and protect against seizures.
The ketogenic regime is very selective and targeted. In order for the body to trigger a condition of ketosis, all forms of carbohydrates, both simple and complex, suche as bread, pasta, rice, biscuits, all forms of cereals, fruit, legumes, potatoes and carrots, must be removed from the diet.
Most ketogenic plans allow foods high in protein, as well as sources of unsaturated fats:
- Low-fat milk;
- Lean cheeses and dairy products;
- White meat and fish;
- Extra-dark chocolate;
- Dried fruits such as almonds, walnuts and cashews;
- Extra virgin olive oil;
- Vegetables such as fennel, lettuce, tomatoes, rocket, spinach, zucchini, mushrooms. Vegetables with a high fiber content such as cabbage, broccoli, turnip broccoli, beets or endive, should be limited;
- It is important to remove vinegar, wine and beer.