What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder in Singapore, is a chronic neurological condition that causes recurrent and unpredictable seizures. Seizures occur due to bursts of abnormal electrical activity produced by damaged cells in the brain, resulting in various physical and sensory changes. These changes can manifest as convulsions, loss of consciousness, altered awareness, or unusual sensations.

Epilepsy is not a singular disease but comprises a spectrum of disorders, with epilepsy and seizures ranging in severity and type. It can develop at any age and may have various causes.

If you or someone you know experiences seizures, it is important to understand that epilepsy is a medical condition that requires evaluation and often treatment by healthcare professionals. While there is no cure for epilepsy, it can often be effectively managed with medications and other therapies to improve your quality of life.

Epilepsy is caused by bursts of abnormal electrical signals from damaged brain cells.

What are the common causes of Epilepsy in Singapore?

The cause of epilepsy is usually unidentifiable in approximately 50% of people with epilepsy. However, epilepsy has been linked to various factors such as:

  • Injury: injury or trauma to the head can result in epilepsy.
  • Genetics: certain types of epilepsy tend to run in families.
  • Brain conditions: brain tumours and how some blood vessels develop can cause epilepsy.
  • Infections: infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites can cause epilepsy.
  • Developmental conditions: developmental conditions such as autism can cause epilepsy.

What are the symptoms of Epilepsy?

Symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of awareness
  • Convulsions
  • Unusual sensations
  • Automatisms
  • Confusions
  • Fatigue
  • Memory issues
  • Emotional changes
  • Injuries

Is Epilepsy painful?

Epilepsy does not cause pain, but its associated seizures can sometimes cause physical discomfort or injuries. During a seizure, you may inadvertently bite your tongue or sustain injuries from falling or convulsions, which can be painful.

Additionally, the emotional and psychological impact of living with epilepsy, including anxiety or depression, can be distressing. Overall, epilepsy is more characterised by seizures' sudden and unpredictable nature rather than constant pain.

Epilepsy is characterised by seizures, loss of consciousness, convulsions, fatigue, mental confusion, etc.

Who is at risk of Epilepsy in Singapore?

In Singapore, epilepsy can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. It is not limited to a specific group of people.

Epilepsy can develop due to various factors, these are:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Brain injuries
  • Infections
  • Structural abnormalities in the brain

How is Epilepsy diagnosed?

Diagnosing epilepsy involves a comprehensive medical evaluation. The diagnosis typically includes:

  • Medical history: your neurologist will gather information about your symptoms, their frequency, duration, and any potential triggers.
  • Physical examination: a physical examination helps rule out other potential causes of seizures.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): this test records brain activity and can detect abnormal electrical patterns associated with epilepsy.
  • Imaging tests: brain scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (link to service page) or computed tomography scans (CT scans) (link to service page) can reveal structural abnormalities in the brain that may be causing seizures.
  • Blood tests: these tests help identify underlying conditions such as infections or metabolic disorders.
  • Seizure diary: keeping a record of seizure episodes and related details can aid in diagnosis and treatment planning.

What are the treatment options available for Epilepsy in Singapore?

In Singapore, epilepsy is treated through various methods, and treatment choice depends on factors such as the type of seizures, their frequency, and individual health considerations.

An EEG or electroencephalography is used to detect abnormal electrical patterns in the brain

The following are common treatment options you may be recommended:

  • Medications: the most common approach is using antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to control seizures. Your doctor will prescribe a specific medication tailored to your condition, and it is essential to take it as directed.
  • Lifestyle management: maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular sleep patterns, stress management, and avoiding seizure triggers such as excessive alcohol or missed medications, can be crucial.
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS): for some individuals, a surgically implanted device called a VNS can help reduce seizure frequency and severity.
  • Ketogenic diet: in some instances, a strict ketogenic diet, higher in fats and low in carbohydrates, can be effective, especially in children with epilepsy.
  • Surgery: for drug-resistant epilepsy or cases where seizures originate from a specific brain area, surgical procedures to remove or disconnect that area may be considered.
  • Responsive neurostimulation (RNS): RNS is a newer approach involving a device implanted in the brain to monitor and respond to abnormal brain activity.

Your treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs, and regular follow-up with your neurosurgeon is crucial to ensure the effectiveness of your chosen treatment and to make any necessary adjustments. It is essential to work closely with your medical team to manage epilepsy effectively and improve your quality of life.

Frequently asked questions  

Do epilepsy medications have side effects?

Yes, epilepsy medications can have side effects. The specific side effects vary depending on the medication and the individual. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, mood changes, and weight gain. It is important to discuss these with your doctor to find the most suitable medication.

What should I do during a seizure?

During a seizure, stay calm and take the following steps:

  1. Ensure safety by moving harmful objects away.
  2. Gently guide yourself to the ground.
  3. Place yourself on your side to aid breathing.
  4. Protect your head.
  5. Do not put anything in your mouth.
  6. Get reassurance and help as needed.
Can epilepsy affect cognitive function or mental health?

Yes, epilepsy can affect cognitive function and mental health. Seizures and medication side effects may lead to memory issues, mood changes, and anxiety or depression.

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