The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, managing its entire functioning – from helping us taste pizza to ensuring that our heart continues beating exactly the way it is supposed to. The messages that dictate these functions and all other feelings, thoughts, memories, and sensations, are transmitted either via electrical signals or through hormones. Seizures are triggered when there is an irregularity in the pace of transmission of these signals. It is important to know that seizures can be caused by a variety of reasons – from medication, high fevers, and even low blood sugar.
Epilepsy is a condition that is diagnosed when an individual has more than two consecutive seizures within a short period of time. It is crucial to know the role of electricity in your brain in regards to triggering seizures to attempt to control the condition. After all, according to the CDC, about 1 in every 26 people in the U.S. has epilepsy, and 1 in 10 around the world is bound to have at least one seizure in their lifetime.
What does the electricity in our brains do?
The brain is made up of neurons – tiny cells that fire electrical signals from one tip of the body to another. The ends and beginnings of neurons are connected to receive and then transmit the signal further until it reaches its destination.
For example, when we smell something, the signal for the sensation is sent from the brain to the olfactory receptors in our nostrils that help us identify the smell. The seemingly long process is carried out within a mere fraction of a second. While most neurons work in tandem with each other, there will always be some that fire independently for no specific function.
More often than not, these independent neurons are harmless. However, when this independent firing occurs in excess it affects the surrounding neurons, which in turn causes a surge of energy throughout the brain. This causes unconsciousness and muscle contractions (twitching, stiffness, or limpness) throughout the body. What is really happening is that your brain during the electrical surge is ‘confused’ and hence, is sending scrambled signals that cause changes in emotions and behavior.
There are two main types of seizures – Focal Onset and Generalized Onset Seizures.
- Focal Onset Seizures start in one specific part of the brain and can then spread throughout. The severity of their symptoms depends on the direction and pattern of the electrical discharge’s spread.
- Generalized Seizures involve the entire brain, i.e. both its hemispheres. While they can start as focal seizures that then spread or as independent seizures in both hemispheres of the brain.
Accurate detection of the cause and type of seizure that an individual is experiencing can influence its treatment. Generally, medications help contain epileptic seizures; for seizures that are more difficult to control, diet therapy, nerve stimulation, and surgery can help as well. Surgery often works better in treating focal seizures since they originate from one specific area of the brain. You may also like to read our blog on refractory epilepsy.
Several factors can trigger a seizure such as head trauma, brain infection, stroke, or tumor. Apart from that certain medication and physiological changes such as low blood sugar can trigger it too. In individuals diagnosed with epilepsy, stress, sleep deprivation, fatigue, irregular meal portions, substance abuse or alcohol intake can further aggravate the condition.
An individual diagnosed with epilepsy requires constant care and support in case of a seizure occurrence. Being well-informed about what causes a seizure and how one can offer care can help alleviate its after-effects. If you are someone who is diagnosed with it, sticking to the guidelines prescribed by your medical practitioner is the best way forward in ensuring your own safety and wellness. Read more about what to do when someone is having a seizure.