This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Convulsions, or fits, in which the patient falls; violent jerking of the muscles; frothing at the mouth; biting of the tongue; face at first livid, afterward red and swollen; attack generally followed by disposition to sleep for one or two hours.
This disease is so common that it needs but a very brief description. The symptoms described above are those which occur in a severe case. In milder cases, there may be simply a slight loss of consciousness for a few seconds, after which the patient resumes whatever occupation he may have been engaged in at the time of the attack. If walking across the room, he stops suddenly with a startled aspect, or with the eyes rolled upward. If eating at the table the attack may be signalized by dropping the knife or fork. This form of the disease is known as Pettitmal. The severe form of the disease is just preceded by peculiar sensations which the patient recognizes as premonitory of the attack which is termed the aura. In some cases the patient utters a peculiar cry at the beginning of the attack, which may consist of a slight jerking of the toe or finger, or in a peculiar sensation at the pit of the stomach. The epilepsy is a very chronic disease. In many cases, it is well established before its real nature is recognized, the attacks at first being so slight as to pass unobserved. In many cases, especially in children, they occur in the night, so that neither the patient nor his friends, for a long time, are aware of the existence of the disease.
This affection originates from quite a variety of causes, among the chief of which are hereditary influences, sexual excesses, the use of alcoholic liquors and tobacco, syphilis, excessive mental labor, and errors in diet. We have met a number of cases in young men in which the disease was clearly traceable to self-abuse. In several cases of adults which we have treated, other sexual excesses have been practiced, of which the disease was clearly the result. In our opinion, errors of diet have much more to do with producing this disease than is generally supposed. We have rarely met with a case in which there was not marked disturbance of the digestion, and have noticed particularly that the worst attacks, in patients suffering with the disease, almost always follow some excess in eating or other dietetic transgression. Excess in the use of animal food may also be charged with producing a strong tendency to this disease, if it is not a directly exciting cause.