The word epilepsy is derived from the Greek word “epilepsia” which means “possession”, because in an epileptic seizure, it looks as if a foreign entity is taking control of the individual.
There is also a Hebrew name for the condition based on the idea of external compulsion – kfiyon. Another expression used in Hebrew is “falling disease”, because sufferers may lose consciousness and fall during a generalized seizure.
In fact, epilepsy is a group of long-term neurological disorders, characterized by seizures of various kinds, due to excessive neuronal activity in the brain cortex.
The types of seizures and disorders vary from person to person. Some attacks can be clearly observed, but there are other types that are not visible. Attacks may occur at various times, even during sleep, and recur with no immediate or identifiable cause.
An episode may last from just a few seconds to several minutes.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, but since it is so complex, there is no simple treatment.
Source of the illness
In about 60% of cases, we do not know what causes epilepsy. Some cases develop as the result of brain damage, a stroke, brain tumors, brain infections, or are due to congenital defects, in a process called epileptogenesis.
The disorder affects 1% of people aged 20 and 3% of people aged 75 and is more frequent in men.
Most people diagnosed with epilepsy in the developing world are older children or young adults, apparently due to the high rate of traumas and infectious diseases. In developed countries, there are fewer cases among young people and more among the elderly.
Epileptic seizures occur when a group of neurons in the brain begin to “fire” in an abnormal, excessive, and unsynchronized way, when an excitatory neurotransmitter becomes more resistant to firing for a certain time.
Symptoms and types of attack
- Focal seizures originate in neuronal networks that are limited to one brain hemisphere.
- They often occur after an “aura”, which includes sensory (visual, hearing, or smell), psychic, autonomic, and motor phenomena.
- There are two types of focal seizure:
Jacksonian march – jerking activity may start in a specific muscle group and spread to surrounding muscle groups
Automatisms – unconscious activities which may be simple movements like smacking the lips, or more complex activities such as attempts to pick up something, or hand waving.
- Todd’s paralysis may occur after a focal seizure – localized weakness lasting a few seconds or minutes, and sometimes a day or two.
Generalized seizures originate in neuronal networks in both hemispheres. There are 6 main types of generalized seizures, which all involve loss of consciousness and usually occur without warning:
Tonic-clonic: contraction and then extension of the limbs together with arching of the back, generally lasting 10-30 seconds.
Constant muscle contraction.
Breathing may stop and the person becomes blue.
May be accompanied by a cry due to contraction of chest muscles, followed by limbs shaking.
There may be a loss of bowel or bladder control.
The tongue may be bitten one or both sides.
Followed by the post-ictal state – the time needed for the person to return to consciousness and full function after the seizure.
Myoclonic seizures – muscle spasms in specific areas or all over the body.
Absence seizures may be subtle, with loss of consciousness together with a slight turn of the head or blinking. The person does not fall and returns to normal immediately afterwards.
Atonic seizures are the loss of muscle activity for at most one minute, typically symmetric.
Reflex epilepsy involves various types of seizures triggered by a known cause, such as flashing lights and noises.
Epileptics may experience a wide range of problems, with negative effects on their social and psychological wellbeing. The result can be social isolation, stigma, or disability. In addition, attention disorders and hyperactivity affect three to five times as many children with epilepsy compared to those without epilepsy.
According to a clinical study we conducted in collaboration with the Pediatric Neurology Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, treatment with CBD has a positive and significant effect on the frequency and intensity of seizures.
Based on this research and over a decade of therapeutic experience at Tikun Olam House, our team of nurses has prepared a cautious and meticulous treatment plan to assist and support the families of children suffering from seizures and functional difficulties to achieve maximum improvement, with the emphasis on avoiding side effects and keeping to the doctor’s prescription.