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UBC PATHS Blog Post: Dec 3, 2023

What is epilepsy and what is a seizure? 

A seizure is a wave of electrical activity between neurons that results in abnormalities within muscle groups, behavioral presentations, sensations, and more. There are many different forms of epilepsy, which are clustered into two overarching classes: focal onset seizures and generalized seizures. These two groups differentiate in where the uncontrollable electrical energy is sourced within the brain and how it spreads between neurons. Epilepsy, also referred to as seizure disorder, is a condition in which the individual suffers from recurring seizures. In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 1% of the population is affected by epilepsy, although its presentation will vary dramatically between individuals. 


Seizure symptoms and signs vary depending on the type of seizure but some of the warning signs include: a feeling in the stomach, emotions such as fear, some people may feel deja vu, may be visual such as seeing a steady or flashing light, color, shape, dizziness and loss of balance, hallucinations. Some symptoms include: temporary confusion, a starting spell, stiff muscles, uncontrollable jerking movement of the limbs, loss of consciousness, fear, anxiety or deja vu. People with epilepsy can sometimes show a change in behavior and/or could have symptoms of psychosis. There are many different types of seizures but most people with epilepsy have the same kind of seizure with similar symptoms every time. Having epilepsy can also lead people to have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and behaviours.  


Epilepsy can arise from a variety of causes, and in some cases, the cause of an epilepsy is unknown. For the majority, epilepsy has four  main causes. The first cause of epilepsy is genetic, meaning that symptoms of epilepsy were passed down from previous family members who had the condition. The second and most common cause of epilepsy is infections. Infectious disease related to different areas of your body and brain may lead to the rise of epilepsy. Brain trauma and brain tumor that has a physical impact on the functioning of your brain can  also lead to epilepsy. Finally, the malfunctioning of the autoimmune system also gives rise to epilepsy, and epilepsy that is specifically caused by the autoimmune system is called autoimmune epilepsy. 

Relation to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Some people with Parkinson’s disease may also experience seizures. Research shows that there is a link between Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, lots of different studies show different kinds of links such as; epilepsy is a risk factor for Parkison’s disease, results showing that people with epilepsy are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are at double the risk of developing epilepsy than those without the disease, the risk was about 4.5% if the person had Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s and 2.5% if not.


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