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How Does Epilepsy Affect the Nervous System?

Scott Loeb DO
Medically reviewed by Dr. Loeb
Scott Loeb DO
Medically reviewed by Dr. Loeb

The goal of epilepsy treatment is to achieve durable remission. This is a condition in which seizures do not occur for a year or more. The main method of therapy is taking antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). But all AEDs, like most other medicines, can have certain side effects. Thus, when choosing them, the doctor takes into account the risk/benefit ratio. You need to reach the least of side effects to go with the most possible therapeutic effect. In the first few weeks of taking the drug, depending on the prescribed therapy. You may also observe the following fairly typical side effects:

  • feeling of fatigue;
  • upset stomach;
  • dizziness. 

To cut adverse events, the doctor prescribes therapy from a low dose with a slow increase. This depends on the patient’s condition and the drug chosen over several weeks or even months. At the same time, the patient must always be informed about possible risks. We will explore the question, “How does epilepsy affect the nervous system?”.

schematic representation of the human CNS on black background

Epilepsy Body Systems Affected

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder. It’s characterized by recurrent seizures. Abnormal electrical activity of the brain causes it and affects many body systems. The nervous system suffers first. It leads to altered consciousness, sensory changes, and motor disturbances. Cognitive functions like memory and attention may sometimes be impaired. Emotional well-being can suffer due to unpredictable seizures and societal stigma. It can potentially lead to depression and anxiety. Hormonal imbalances affecting the endocrine system can emerge, causing

  • menstruation;
  • bone health irregularities. 

Most seizures have minor cardiovascular and respiratory effects. However, prolonged seizures could impact heart rate and breathing. Epilepsy itself does not directly affect the digestive system. However, some individuals experience nausea. Proper diagnosis, treatment, and emotional support are essential for managing epilepsy’s effects. So you can read further information about the side effects of epilepsy.

Cognitive Function

Cognitive and behavioral disorders are frequent comorbidities of epilepsy. They are sometimes more significant for patients than the underlying disease. These disorders can usually be detected in different forms of epilepsy:

  • focal idiopathic generalized;
  • epileptic encephalopathies. 

Whether the development of CI is a direct consequence of a seizure remains an open question. It is also noted that the nature of cognitive “epileptic” deficits can be:

  • acquired;
  • fluctuating;
  • progressive;
  • chronic, and “degenerative” (leading to dementia).

Aldenkamp identified 3 types of deficits in epilepsy:

  • memory decline;
  • attention deficit;
  • impaired ability to learn new information;
  • slowing of existing skills.

Motor Function

If you wonder how epilepsy affects the nervous system, you should refer to motor function. Tonic-clonic seizures prompt vigorous muscle contractions and convulsions. While other seizure forms may result in more subtle yet observable motor disruptions. These involuntary movements can lead to:

  • muscle injuries;
  • in certain instances, increase the risk of falls. 

The intricate relationship between atypical brain activity and motor control is often emphasized. After all, epilepsy affects the complex coordination of:

  • neural signals;
  • physical movements in the body.

Endocrine System

In addition to the nervous system, epilepsy and endocrine disorders of the reproductive system are more common in women. This category of patients has the following pathology of the reproductive system:

  • anovulation;
  • hypothalamic amenorrhea;
  • hyperandrogenemia;
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS);
  • functional hyperprolactinemia;
  • primary ovarian insufficiency. 

Possible reasons for the high incidence of infertility include the following factors:

  • physiologic;
  • psychological;
  • social;
  • economic. 

Meanwhile, physiologic disturbances may be sometimes related to:

  • the disease itself;
  • the intake of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). 

Epilepsy can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Also, it affects the pulse frequency of:

The mechanism of action of seizures on the reproductive system is not understood. So it is one of the most important side effects of epilepsy. The type of epilepsy and lesion localization lead to the development of reproductive disorders. The development of PCOS and hyperandrogenemia is the most characteristic of idiopathic generalized convulsive syndrome. Left-sided lesion of the limbic system often leads to:

  • increased GnRH pulse frequency;
  • the development of PCOS. 

A right-sided lesion leads to:

  • decreased GnRH pulse rate;
  • hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Digestive System

The clinical manifestations of epilepsy are very diverse. They depend largely on affected areas of the brain. Often, seizures begin with an aura, a specific condition followed by a seizure. The aura may go with nausea, vomiting does not usually precede the seizure. So now you can notice the other epilepsy body systems affected. The aura period may last a few seconds, after which the person loses consciousness and falls. During the seizure, depending on the type of seizure, there are convulsions. First, they may be tonic, in which the trunk and stretched limbs, and then – clonic. Contractions of the muscles of the limbs, neck, and trunk characterize them.

At the end of the attack, the patient feels weakness and possibly dizziness. In rare cases, there is nausea and vomiting in the postictal period. But this situation still can not be typical. Much more often, vomiting accompanies the so-called abdominal form of the disease.

Cardiovascular system

The focus of pathological location activity near the autonomic centers is important. These side effects of epilepsy lead to the development of persistent life-threatening arrhythmias. Patients with a history of cardiovascular disease are most at risk. Doctors noted that the most frequent cardiac rhythm occurs in generalized seizures. It happens in patients with high heart rates in the ictal period. As well as when the epileptic focus has a localization in the left hemisphere. A high risk of developing serious rhythm disturbances goes with mesial temporal sclerosis. The authors also point out the important role of ANS dysfunction in developing rhythm disorders in epilepsy.

Impact of Seizures on Brain Functions

During a seizure, excessive and abnormal electrical signals disrupt your brain’s normal activity. How this affects your body functions depends on two main factors. The first factor is the location in your brain where the seizure occurs. For example, a seizure in the part of your brain that controls movement (motor cortex area) may cause your arm or leg to twitch.

The second factor is the spread of the seizure to other parts of the brain. It is the direct connection of epilepsy and the nervous system. For example, a seizure that affects a large part of your brain may affect a large part of your body.

There are the following types of seizures:

  • Focal seizures. It occurs when abnormal electrical activity starts in one part of the brain. These seizures used to be partial seizures.
  • Disseminated seizures. These are seizures that begin on both sides of the brain at the same time.
  • Unknown onset. In this case, it is unknown whether the seizure is focal or widespread. It can be easier to determine the type with specialized tests.
  • Focal to bilateral seizure. In this case, the seizure starts on one side or part of the brain (focal) and then spreads to both sides.

After you find out how epilepsy affects the nervous system, you need to understand that seizures can also affect your heart rate, blood pressure, or other vital signs. These changes are often short-term (temporary) and go away after the seizure stops. Brain cells can be damaged during a seizure, especially in prolonged seizures. For these reasons, it is important to have good seizure control.

representation of the human CNS in the head on black background

Effective Management Strategies

Effective management strategies are essential for individuals dealing with epilepsy. These strategies encompass medical treatment, lifestyle modifications, and safety measures. Adhering to prescribed medications, some changes can aid in seizure control. Some of them are even vital for overall well-being:

  • creating a safe environment;
  • participating in support groups;
  • seeking psychological support. 

Surgical options, like removing seizure-triggering brain tissue can be good for epilepsy and the nervous system. Alternative treatments such as the ketogenic diet or VNS, are also considered to be great. As medications aren’t fully effective. Personalized strategies, regular medical check-ups should be in your list. A holistic approach contribute to improved quality of life for those managing epilepsy. Read more about them below.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a nutritional principle based on a certain ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates consumed in food. It appeared in the first half of the twentieth century. Doctors noticed that the predominance of fatty foods reduces the frequency of seizures. It was in children with epilepsy in almost 90% of cases. At that time, doctors had not yet developed a treatment with anticonvulsants. And “fatty” food became one of the effective ways to combat the side effects of epilepsy.

The therapeutic diet on this principle was developed in the USA in the 20s of the XX century. It represents a special diet of the patient, the basis of which is fats. Protein in such a diet should be consumed by the patient in moderate amounts. And the consumption of carbohydrates should be minimized

Medical Treatment

Consult a neurologist or epileptologist to determine the most suitable antiepileptic medications. 

Medical treatment is crucial for managing epilepsy effectively. Properly prescribed antiepileptic medications can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Regular consultation with a healthcare provider ensures accurate diagnosis. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is a significant advancement in the care of body systems affected by epilepsy. This implantable device sends controlled electrical signals to the vagus nerve. It alters brain activity and potentially reduces seizure occurrence, particularly in drug-resistant cases. VNS’s effectiveness and adjustable settings offer tailored seizure management. It may not eliminate seizures. But it can lead to fewer and less severe episodes. So, it grants individuals a higher level of independence and improved daily functioning.

Psychological Support

Psychological support is invaluable in epilepsy management. Living with seizures can lead to anxiety, depression, and social isolation. Therapeutic interventions, counseling, and support groups offer:

  • emotional guidance;
  • coping strategies;
  • a sense of community. 

Addressing the psychological aspect is essential for overall well-being.

Bottom Line

So now you know how epilepsy affects the nervous system. Lone Star Neurology can help you to treat this. With specialized neurologists and advanced diagnostic tools, we provide personalized treatment plans. It includes medications, surgical options, and innovative therapies. Our holistic approach ensures effective seizure management. And you get an improved quality of life for individuals with epilepsy. So do not hesitate to contact us in any cases that can worry you.

FAQs

Can epilepsy lead to cognitive decline?

Yes, epilepsy can lead to cognitive decline, especially if seizures are frequent or uncontrolled, depending on the areas of the brain affected by the seizures.

Can epilepsy be cured?

Epilepsy is typically not fully curable, but it can often be managed effectively with medications, lifestyle changes, and other treatments to minimize seizures and their impact.

Are lifestyle modifications alone enough to manage epilepsy?

Lifestyle modifications such as sleep regulation and stress management can help reduce seizure frequency. However, many cases require a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments for optimal management.

Can epilepsy affect children differently than adults?

Yes, epilepsy can affect children differently than adults. Seizure types and treatment responses can vary based on the child’s age. Pediatric epilepsy care requires specialized consideration.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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