International Epilepsy Day is on Monday, 12 February 2018. On this day, people all over the world join together to create awareness around the disorder, sharing stories about how it affects their lives, relationships, and careers. International Epilepsy Day aims to educate the public around the symptoms associated with epilepsy, the importance of treatment and care, and to help lessen the stigma associated with this neurological disorder. Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide and is more common in young children and older adults.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes unprovoked, chronic seizures. A seizure is triggered by a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain. Although there is no cure for epilepsy, the symptoms can be managed through various treatments, which include medication, Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and surgery. Although there is no known cause for epilepsy, there are certain factors which may contribute to the development of the disorder:
- Head trauma
- Damage to the brain (caused by tumours or strokes)
- Developmental disorders (such as autism and neurofibromatosis)
- Infectious diseases (like viral encephalitis, meningitis, and AIDS)
- Prenatal injury (for example, poor nutrition, infection, or lack of oxygen while in the womb)
What Happens In Your Brain To Cause A Seizure?
The brain is comprised of billions of neurons (nerve cells) that process and transmit signals and information throughout the body through the transmission of electrical impulses. During a seizure, a part (or parts) of the brain receive an abnormal burst of electrical signals, which then interrupt the normal functioning of the brain.
What Happens To Your Body When You’re Having A Seizure?
There are different types of seizures, known as focal (or partial) seizures, and generalized seizures. Focal seizures happen when there is abnormal electrical activity in one or more areas of one side of the brain. Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain. When someone is having a seizure, the following are some bodily symptoms: Jerking movements of the arms and legs, the body stiffens, and the person may lose consciousness
What Should You Do If Someone Around You Is Having A Seizure?
There are a lot of misconceptions around how to help someone that is experiencing a seizure – one of the most dangerous being that you should put something in the person’s mouth to prevent them from biting off their tongue. This is an absolute no-no, as it can cause the object to become lodged in the person’s throat, which could cause suffocation. Another misconception is that you should hold the person still while they are seizing to prevent them from hurting themselves. This is equally dangerous, as you may cause more harm to them by restricting their bodily movement. Although it is a frightening experience to watch someone having a seizure, they are usually not indicative of an emergency and will stop of their own accord.
Once the person starts experiencing the seizure, they may become unresponsive, which means they won’t react to your voice or to you shaking them. Next, their muscles will clench, and the person will become rigid for a few seconds before they start jerking (this may last a few seconds to a few minutes). Once the jerking stops, the person will regain consciousness (if they passed out during the seizure), leaving them disoriented and confused for a brief period afterwards.
Here are some things you can do to help someone having a seizure:
- Remove any objects around the person to prevent them injuring themselves, especially sharp objects
- Keep other people out of the way and encourage them not to touch the person
- Do NOT hold the person down or restrict their movement in any way – the most you can do is turn them onto their side to keep their airway clear
- Do NOT put anything in the person’s mouth
- Give them a few minutes once the seizure has stopped. As mentioned, they will be disoriented and confused once the seizure has stopped, and they may feel slightly embarrassed – so give them some time and space to recollect themselves
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