What about the words used to describe epileptic seizures? The word ’seizure’ is that most commonly used by neurologists for all types, but, depending upon the manifestation of the seizure, they may call them convulsions. Often they will use the words employed by their patients—for example, fit, turn, attack or dizzy spell. People who have two types of seizure often call them ‘big ones’ and ‘little ones’. As long as the patient and the doctor find themselves talking about the same events, this is perfectly acceptable.
The word seizure is really too sudden and violent a word to describe the minor distortions of consciousness that may be the only manifestation of some types of epilepsy such as absences, but we do not have a better word to cover all types.
Sometimes in correspondence and conversation doctors employ the words ‘epileptiform’ or ‘epileptoid’. In our experience, doctors who use such terms are skating round the subject and avoiding frankly stating that their patient has had an epileptic seizure. The only justification for such a term might be the description of attacks called anoxic seizures in which a few jerks of the limbs arise during a profound faint, in which the blood supply to the brain is briefly insufficient. Apart from this example, and strokes, which used to be called apoplectic seizures, by common usage in English-speaking countries a seizure now means an epileptic event.
The human spine – also at times called the spinal column, vertebral column, or just the backbone – is a flexible bony column that extends from the base of the skull to the small of the back. It serves two main purposes:
Working together with various muscles and ‘girdles’ – the latter being encircling or arching arrangements of bones, such as the pelvic and shoulder girdles – the spine provides the support that enables us to stand upright.
It also encloses – and so protects to a large extent – the spinal cord, that portion of the central nervous system whose nerve cells and bundles connect all parts of the body with the brain. Structurally, the spine consists of a number of vertebrae (or
individual bones) that are stacked on top of each other and separated as well as connected by discs of fibrocartilage (the intervertebral discs, which are discussed later in this chapter).
Although adults have 26 vertebrae, new-born babies have 33, nine of those extra ones becoming eventually fused into two separate single bones. An adult spine has five regions, consisting of the following, and starting from the bottom up:
Four fused coccygeal – or tail – vertebrae, which together make up the coccyx.
Five fused sacral vertebrae, which form the sacrum.
Five lumbar – or lower back – vertebrae.
Twelve thoracic (also at times called thoriac) – or chest -vertebrae.Seven cervical – or neck – vertebrae.
In someone with established epilepsy, the EEG between seizures may also show abnormal discharges which are not apparent to the doctor in terms of observed behaviour, nor are they associated with any change perceived by the person with epilepsy. Although the abnormal discharges of the EEG are clearly a fragment, as it were, of a seizure, they are not usually regarded as seizures. Our definition of an epileptic seizure, therefore, is a paroxysmal discharge of cerebral nerve cells apparent to the person and/or an observer.
Anything which increases the excitability of a group of nerve cells may cause a paroxysmal discharge. For example certain gases or chemicals, developed for use in war, are designed to cause disabling seizures amongst the enemy.
Does epilepsy stop? There is one encouraging point that all those with epilepsy must remember—the number of people who have epilepsy at any one time is much less than those who have had epilepsy in the past. An approximate estimate of the average duration of epilepsy can be obtained by dividing the average prevalence by the average annual incidence. This gives a figure of about 11 years. However artificial this figure may be, it underlines the point that epilepsy can and does usually stop. A great number of people with epilepsy fare better.
One of the ways in which events can go wrong is when a nerve cell loses some of its inputs from other cells because of damage to these other nerve cells. If inhibitory terminals are lost, then the cell will become over-excitable, and begin to switch on, or fire inappropriately, driving other nerve cells with which it is connected on the downstream side to similar activity. This may result in more and more nerve cells being incorporated into the abnormal pattern of discharge.
The biological background of an epileptic seizure is therefore an abnormal discharge of nerve cells in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. The normal, quiet, and integrated function of nerve cells is interrupted as they are forced through the contacts they make with and receive from others into a paroxysmal discharge. Different types of seizure are a reflection of different patterns of paroxysmal discharge. If the seizure discharge spreads throughout large areas of the brain, then consciousness may be lost. If the discharge of nerve cells is confined to the temporal lobe of the brain (more or less above and in front of the ears), amongst those cells concerned with memory, the paroxysmal discharge may result only in a distortion of memory so that the sufferer perceives that he or she has experienced ongoing events before—the phenomenon of deja vu.
The human brain contains about 100 000 million nerve cells, each of which is connected to many others—perhaps as many as 50 000 others. The brain is the organ of our thinking and of our memory. It integrates information from the outside world and so allows us to perceive objects and events around us. It organizes our response to these events by movements or other action. It organizes our social behaviour.
Messages are passed between nerve cells by the extraordinarily rapid secretion of tiny packets of specialized chemicals known as neurotransmitters. As a neurotransmitter acts on the next cell in a chain, a brief electric current is generated. These can be recorded by very fine wires placed next to or in a nerve cell, but they are not large enough to be recorded externally over the skin of the head. However, some cells act in rhythmic concert, and these rhythms can be detected as the electroencephalogram (EEG) over the skin of the hands by small electrodes amplified, recorded on tape or disc, and displayed on a moving strip of paper or screen.
Some messages received by a nerve cell are inhibitory—they dampen down the activity of the receiving cell; some are excitatory, enhancing its activity. The receiving nerve cell computes, as it were, these contrasting messages, which determine its own action.
Actually, there is no miracle cure for arthritis! As a matter of fact, there is no specific, singular curative therapy for arthritis. No specific treatment, no specific diet, no specific bath possesses curative properties which can cure arthritis. The cure is accomplished by the healing power inherent in the body itself. The biological treatments only release and actively support this healing power, creating the most favorable conditions for repair, rebuilding, and re-establishment of health.
As I studied the actual cases, interviewed the patients, and observed the various biological treatments used to bring about these remarkable recoveries, I could not help but think that the miracle is not in the fact that these patients are cured, but that these biological methods, which can accomplish such extraordinary results, and which are so widely used in Europe, are virtually unknown in the United States!
This to me is a real miracle: That millions of arthritis sufferers in the U.S.A., hopeless and disillusioned in their despair, have never heard that such methods exist. They are in complete ignorance of the great developments which are now taking place in biological medicine.
It is a miracle, indeed, that the biological methods described in this book are unknown to the public in this country and that 13 million American arthritis sufferers are pacified by repeated, paid commercials which say, “There is no cure for arthritis”!
Children’s sleep, or the lack of it, is a major preoccupation for many of today’s parents. “Does your child sleep through the night yet?” seems to be the first question everyone asks—if your puffy eyes do not speak for themselves. Someone else’s smug response, “My child has slept through the night ever since we brought him home from the hospital,” wakes up every hair on the back of your neck—even though they, like the rest of your body, can barely function.
It is, understandably, an issue charged with an entire range of emotions—anger, guilt, relief, and elation. All parenting issues seem intensely important, but this one seems even more so. Perhaps this is because sleep—or the need for it in both parent and child—can begin to affect one’s decision-making ability and undermine even the most confident parent. It can bring discord to ordinarily happy families and affect parents’ feelings toward their child.
But it is possible to look objectively at the problem, to define it as it appears in your family, and to determine a course of action with which you will feel comfortable. In order to devise a workable plan, you first need some solid information about young children’s sleep.
When a child’s sleep habits cause recurring or continuing problems for the child or his parents, there is a sleep problem.
It is important for anyone undertaking this program of prevention to maintain a constructive point of view. These problems are predominantly physical and external in origin, yet to the extent that psychological factors come into play, it is important to maintain a positive attitude. The necessary changes in lifestyle should be made of one’s own free will, since no one such as a parent, spouse, or business associate can really make such important decisions for another person. At some point they must be self-motivated. Second, the patient should not be excessively sorry for himself. Anyone can learn to live a relatively healthy life in a less polluted environment. Despite the temporary difficulties, life can be made simpler and more enjoyable for the susceptible person. The aid and comfort of patients who have brought their own problems under control can be of great assistance.
These suggestions are offered as proposals for improving your health by changing the physical environment. They are not a panacea. Some people may need intensive care by a clinical ecologist or even temporary hospitalization before any real improvement is seen. For the most part, however, following these ten suggestions can make a big dent in a longstanding health problem, ward off any future cumulative chemical exposures, and help one to have a happier, safer, and more carefree existence.
A friend of mine has told me alternative therapies such as massage or acupuncture will help me. I’m not sure if I should try them.
Massage and acupuncture can help to release and balance bodily tensions. As with all other therapies, we need to learn to control and^fnanage the anxiety and attacks ourselves. While we are learning the management skills, massage and acupuncture can be useful in reducing anxiety and tension. In the long term they can help keep our bodies relaxed.
lam not happy about taking prescribed medications and I am wondering if herbal medications and vitamin therapy would help me instead.
Herbal and vitamin preparations are used regularly by many people. They can be bought over the counter or prescribed by a herbalist or naturopath. They can be helpful in easing the condition, but again they do not teach us the necessary skills for the long-term management of the disorder.
There is, however, one note of caution regarding these and other medications. Some people have reactions to them which are put down to anxiety; yet when the medication is discontinued the reactions disappear. If we are using these preparations, we must be aware of how we feel after taking them. We should not assume any new sensation or symptom is part of the disorder. It may be a reaction to the medication.
Plastic has become increasingly common, one might say all-pervasive, since the end of World War Two. The chemically susceptible person, however, should try to avoid unnecessary exposure to plastics wherever possible. The sources of plastics are explored in Chapter 6. As a simple preventive measure, one should go through one’s house and make all obvious and necessary changes.
For example, many lamps now have plastic shades. As the light bulb heats up, the plastic begins to give off odors and fumes which can have a marked effect on mental and physical well-being. It is necessary, in such cases, to replace the plastic shades with shades made from glass, metal, or natural fabric. In the kitchen, plastic bowls and dishes should be replaced by ceramic, glass, or wooden ones. Wrap foods in aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap and use glass or metal containers instead of plastic refrigerator ware.
The degree to which one must make such changes obviously depends on the severity of the problem. Some people are able to tolerate the harder plastics, while others find they must make a clean sweep through the house in order to feel reasonably well. It is beyond the scope of this book to discuss every aspect of this large problem, although books listed in the “Suggested Reading” should be of help with the practical details.