Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures (alcoholism withdrawal or low blood glucose levels can provoke seizures). A seizure may involve abnormal movements of some or all parts of the person's body or loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological disorder with about 50 million people living with epilepsy. Still, dangerous misconceptions about the condition are common.
What causes epilepsy?
Epilepsy occurs when some brain cells suddenly overfire electrical signals. This overfiring may be idiopathic or caused by injury to the brain from trauma, stroke, tumours, infections or genetic abnormalities. Seizures are precipitated by stress, fatigue, insufficient sleep, poor diet, alcohol and substance abuse. Epilepsy is NON-COMMUNICABLE.
What are seizure types?
Seizures may be partial or generalized, depending on where they originate in the brain.
Focal or partial seizures are the commonest type, involving only a part of the brain. They would commonly cause the affected people to see, feel or hear abnormally and can involve muscle twitching and signs like crying or laughing. People with this type of seizures are often mistaken for having a mental illness.
Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain. There are 6 types:
- Tonic-clonic: Involves tensing, jerking, blackouts and sometimes, loss of bladder or bowel control.
- Tonic: Involves tensing of muscles for typically less than 20 seconds.
- Clonic: Involves jerking of muscles and can last longer than tonic or tonic-clonic seizures.
- Atonic: The entire body goes limp and the person falls down.
- Myoclonic: Causes the affected person to jerk suddenly like they were shocked.
- Absence seizures: The affected person seems distant and unresponsive and may not remember having a seizure at all.
What are do?s and don?ts for seizures?
- DO NOT SHAKE OR HIT THE PERSON.
- DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING INTO THEIR MOUTH.
- DO NOT SQUEEZE ANYTHINGINTO THEIR EYES/ NOSE.
- DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE. Seizures are not contagious and they need your help.
- HELP THEM AWAY FROM HARM. Help them away from roads, sharp objects or hard surfaces and support them with soft clothing.
- REMOVE JEWELLERY AND HARMFUL CLOTHING like neckpieces.
- GENTLY TURN THE PERSON ON THEIR SIDE. This helps them breathe better.
- TIME THE SEIZURE. Seek emergency help once it exceeds 5 minutes OR they have another before fully recovering from the first.
- WAIT TILL THEY RECOVER. Reassure them when they recover and explain what happened. Help them overcome any embarrassment and give them as much privacy as you can.
If you are epileptic,
- Use your medications and cultivate healthy habits.
- Inform your family and coworkers of your condition and how to help in case of an episode.
- Avoid dangerous situations (e.g. swimming alone).
How is epilepsy treated?
It is best to receive advice and treatment from a specialist (neurologist or epileptologist). Treatment may involve:
- Seizure medications
- Neuro-stimulation devices
- Dietary therapy