If you have ever witnessed someone having a seizure, it is very frightening. How can you help them? What should you do? It is important to first understand the difference between epilepsy and seizures.
Epilepsy is a chronic condition that causes repeated, unprovoked seizures. The seizures are caused by bursts of electrical activity in the brain that aren't normal. Seizures may cause problems with muscle control, movement, speech, vision, or awareness.
They usually don't last very long, but they can be scary. The good news is there are many ways to manage epilepsy and reduce or eliminate seizures.
Seizures and epilepsy are not the same. A seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizure you have. Common seizure symptoms include:
A person is considered to have epilepsy if they had two or more seizure without obvious triggers at least 24 hours apart.
Some children will outgrow epilepsy. It is considered to be resolved for individuals who have remained seizure-free for the last 10 years, with no seizure medicines for the last five years.
After reviewing your medical history and symptoms, your doctor may order or perform several tests to diagnose epilepsy or a seizure, including:
Top views of the brain show normal tissue and abnormal tissue that causes seizures.
Treatment of epilepsy can include prescription medications to help control the seizures. However, the treatment of epilepsy is based on your individual health history. If you think your child may have epilepsy, it is important to discuss your child’s treatment plan with their provider so your child can live as normally as possible. Other treatments can include nerve stimulation, surgery, and alternative medicines.
Epilepsy is often associated with other health problems, including depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, and obesity. If you experience other symptoms, it is important to share them with your provider.
Anyone can develop epilepsy. It affects men and women of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. However, genetic factors, head injuries, and conditions that affect the brain, such as stroke, meningitis, dementia, brain tumors, and viral encephalitis, may increase your risk of developing epilepsy.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent epilepsy. You can avoid seizure triggers to improve seizure control. If you have epilepsy, it is important to always take your medication as prescribed by your provider. You can also purchase identification jewelry that lets emergency personnel, friends, and family know that you suffer from epilepsy and provide instructions on how to help you through the seizure.
When a seizure does occur, here are steps that you can take to prevent further injury:
You should NOT try to restrain the person, place anything in the person’s mouth, or try to move the person.
SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) is responsible for about half of all deaths related to epilepsy. It occurs at about a rate of one in 1,000 epileptic patients per year, but the risk becomes cumulative over an individual's lifetime, with a 5 percent chance of it killing someone with epilepsy over the course of their lives if they develop epilepsy in their 20s to 30s.
We don't know exactly what causes it, but it's thought to be related to a suppressed drive to breathe following a seizure. If you are with someone after a seizure and you notice they are not breathing, it's important to keep calling their name and rubbing their chest vigorously to try to get them to breathe, and remind them to keep breathing as they are waking up from their seizure.
Factors that greatly increase the risk of SUDEP are on-going seizures, especially generalized tonic clonic, formally known as Grand Mal, seizures. This is why strict adherence to anti-seizure medications is so important, as well as getting consistent sleep to minimize risk of seizures. If a patient still has seizures despite medications, it's important to discuss other surgical options. Having a bed partner, or a monitoring device at bedtime if the patient sleeps alone, have been shown to decrease the risk of SUDEP.
If you are having seizures and think you may have epilepsy, talk to your primary care provider. He or she can refer you to experienced neurologist should you need further testing.
Being deprived of sleep is not good for anyone. It can affect your moods, your motor skills, and your immune system. Lack of sleep can also lead to an increase in seizure activity if you have epilepsy. Many times, sleep disorders or sleepiness is common in people with epilepsy. To avoid these unhealthy and potentially dangerous consequences, here are steps to help you get a proper, restful sleep without taking sleep-aid medications.
For more information about epilepsy and seizures, please visit us online.
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