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Stress And Epilepsy: Expert Explains The Link

Epilepsy, when untreated and ignored, can become critical and increase the risk of premature death in patients.

Stress And Epilepsy: Expert Explains The Link

Stress may be among many triggers of epilepsy

Around 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, according to the WHO. The condition has affected many people worldwide, with 70% of these cases coming from low and middle-income countries, which do not provide adequate awareness and treatment for the disease.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, leading to seizures, unusual behavior, and a loss of awareness. Many underlying diseases can cause epilepsy, but in half of the patients, the cause of the disease is unknown. Brain damage, genetic abnormalities, head injuries, stroke, brain infection, and tumors in the brain are listed as commonly found causes. Another major factor that increases the risk of stroke and worsens epilepsy symptoms is stress.

Stress comes in many forms and affects each person differently. Major life stress comes from major life events such as the loss of a loved one, financial troubles, and critical diseases that can trigger seizures. Daily hassles and everyday stress can also add up to cause worry, frustration, helplessness, and depression. Some reasons why stress could lead to epilepsy seizures are:

1.    To regulate stress, the body releases certain hormones into the nervous system that can impact the brain
2.    Stress can lead to insomnia or a lack of good sleep, which increases the chances of a seizure
3.    Acute stress leads to mood problems and causes anxiety and frustration, which in turn worsen stress. This forms a cycle of repeated worsening symptoms.
4.    Sometimes seizures can impact the same side of the brain that is responsible for regulating stress and emotions, increasing both stress and the risk of seizures
5.    Chronic stress promotes neuroinflammation and leads to a depressive state. Depression is a common comorbidity in epilepsy patients.

Stress can be both a cause and an effect of epilepsy. Although further research is required to understand the impact of different kinds of stress on the brain. Epilepsy, when untreated and ignored, can become critical and increase the risk of premature death in patients. Moreover, it is often associated with societal stigma and discrimination.

As epilepsy can develop in anyone at any time, regular awareness and effective treatment are crucial. Prevention of seizures can be done by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress factors, and getting regular exercise.

Content by: Dr. Nikunj Mittal, Consultant - Neurosurgery, Manipal Hospitals, Ghaziabad

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