By: Neha Kinariwalla
Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.
In 400 BCE, Hippocrates wrote the first book on epilepsy, countering arguments that said it was a “curse from the devil”. But this hasn’t stopped mythology from brewing through the years. People with epilepsy were perceived as witches, demons, and were even mentioned in the bible in which Jesus Christ casts a devil from a boy who has seizures.
Science has advanced rapidly, with the advent of electroencephalography and improving methods of brain scans but there is still quite a bit that lay people do not know about epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a neurological medical condition. It is not a mental disorder! A seizure is actually caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Brain cells use chemical reactions in order to produce electrical discharges. When the brain is excited more than inhibited, a seizure results (Fisher R., 2006). Epilepsy is the neurological disorder characterized by reoccurrence of these seizures.
Seizures are like onions. They have layers and there can be many different types. But seizures can't be cured by onions! (This actually was a method that was used in the past)
Seizures fall into two main categories: partial and generalized. Partial seizures have onset in one particular part of the brain. Generalized seizures start throughout the brain and can be classified into six types
- Absence seizures (petit mal)
- Myoclonic seizures
- Tonic seizures
- Clonic seizures
- Atonic seizures
- Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal).
Thus, seizures can vary from brief lapses of attention (petit mal) to very severe and long convulsions (grand mal) (Jacoby A, 2005). In later articles, we will learn what implications each of these types of seizures can have.
Fisher Robert and Saul Maslah. 2006. “Overview of Epilepsy.” Retrieved July 14, 2013 (http://neurology.stanford.edu/divisions/e_handout.html)
Jacoby, Ann et. al. 2005. "Epilepsy and social identity: the stigma of a chronic neurological disorder." Lancet Neurol 4(171-78). Retrieved July 14, 2013 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15721827).