What is epilepsy and how can it be identified?


Most of us who have a loved one with epilepsy know that November is Epilepsy Awareness month. But do we actually know what this condition is? Epilepsy is a condition of the brain where a person has seizures. Think of it as wires that make up the brain misfire which causes the individual to seize. This is a rather tricky condition to contain, in fact even with medication, there are some people who just can't seem to conquer their seizures.

In some cases, epilepsy can be cured, but its generally through a rigorous surgery that removes a part of the person's brain-the part that is the cause of the seizures. At times, a person can simply have an implant to control the seizures as well. Surgery is only an option if the doctor can identify where the seizures are occurring in the brain or if they feel it is safe to remove that section without causing permanent damage elsewhere. Generally, a person only meets these qualifications if they can't function with their condition, if their medication isn't working, or if the side effects of their medications are extreme. Doctors don't usually jump to a surgical answer if they can help it, as the risks are also severe.

Epilepsy is not partial to any ethnicity or gender. It can also plague anyone from children to adults. If a person has more than one seizure, a doctor will then decide through various tests if the individual does have this condition. You might ask, "How can I prevent this condition?" There are a few leading causes of epilepsy such as genetics, head injuries, strokes, certain diseases, injuries before birth, and at times developmental issues. There are, however, no ways to prevent epilepsy just as there are no ways to prevent any other kind of brain condition. The good news is, there are ways to identify its symptoms. Some seizures only affect a certain part of the brain and when this occurs, usually the individual experiences memory loss or even repetitive movement. When this occurs, the only way someone can help is to make sure the person having the seizure is away from objects that could injure them.

Aside from that, there six seizures that affect both sides of the brain:
• Drop or Atonic Seizures, this causes a person to lose control of their muscles
• Clonic Seizures are much like the ones mentioned previously, but with these seizures, the individual will have repetitive jerking movements.
• Petit Mal or Absence Seizures can cause a person to momentarily "space out", but there is generally no physical harm. It may leave them mentally tired.
• Myoclonic Seizures can make a person twitch or jerk their arms or legs
• Tonic Seizures, unlike the others, make a person's muscles tighten and they fall to the ground.
• Grand Mal or Tonic-Clonic Seizures are ones we most often associate with epilepsy, the ones we see on doctor shows. This is when the person loses consciousness and falls to the ground shaking violently.

These seizures definitely sound frightening, but there are ways to not only identify the seizures but help someone who is in the middle of them. Here are some Do's and Don'ts.

• Hold the person still
• Put anything into their mouth to prevent them from chewing their tongue
• No CPR
• Offer water or anything until the person is completely alert and recovered

Do's (note that some of these things are not applicable or just cannot be done at the time)
• Bring the person to the floor if in a safe environment
• Make sure nothing is around the person that may cause injury (including people)
• Try to turn the person on their side
• If doable, put something underneath the person's head like a jacket or something equally soft.
• When the seizure ends, reassure and comfort the person as he or she probably will be shaken up.

Epilepsy can be a scary situation for the epileptic and the people around them, but it isn't something to be feared.


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