Would you know how to respond if you saw someone having an epileptic seizure? Here is some information that will help you respond in the best possible manner and help the epileptic person.
What is an epileptic seizure?
An epileptic seizure is the physical manifestation of an excessive and hypersynchronous neuronal discharge. In other words, all of the nerve cells react at the same time, when they usually function alternately. Seizures usually come on suddenly.
There are generally two types of seizures: partial onset seizures, which affect only a part of the brain, and generalized seizures, which affect both hemispheres of the brain. The area of the brain that is affected also determines the type of seizure that will occur.
How does an epileptic seizure manifest itself?
An epileptic seizure can take on many faces which may differ from one person to the next and from one type to another. However, here are a few examples of frequent signs and symptoms:
- loss of consciousness;
- loss of muscle tone;
- memory lapse;
- jerking of the arms, legs or the entire body;
- blank stare, no response to stimulation;
- sudden interruption of a movement or action;
- blinking of the eyes or chewing movements;
Why do epileptic seizures occur?
Epileptic seizure is due to an underlying neurological problem. A number of factors may contribute to it. Their frequency depends on the cause. In fact, individuals could have a single epileptic seizure in the course of their lifetime, while others could have several over a long period of time.
Here are a few examples of factors that could trigger a seizure:
- high fever
- brain tumor
- trauma or injury to the head
- intoxication (alcohol, medication or drug)
- infection (i.e. meningitis)
- lack of oxygen in the blood, and
- neurological disorder (i.e. stroke or cerebrovascular accident, CVA)
What is epilepsy as a chronic disease?
Anyone can have an epileptic seizure once in their lifetime. However, an individual is considered to have epilepsy when repeated seizures occur. Epilepsy is neurological disorder, it is not a mental or psychological disease, contrary to past beliefs. It often causes a feeling of anxiety because the seizures can occur unexpectedly at the worst moments: on the road, during an oral presentation, during a swim or when taking care of a baby, etc.
Fortunately, today it is possible to prevent epileptic seizures with the help of medical treatments, more specifically, antiepileptic drugs. To be effective, these drugs must be taken daily. You should not stop treatment unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Tips on how to deal with an epileptic seizure
If someone has an epileptic seizure in your presence, here is what you can do:
- Remain as calm as possible.
- If the person is standing or sitting, don’t do anything. Don’t try to change their position.
- Move away any objects that could be a danger to them.
- Let the seizure follow its course; there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
- If the person is unconscious, turn them on their side. If possible, put something under the head to support it. Ensure that it is tilted slightly backwards (to free the airways) and that it is stable (to avoid injury).
- Check if the person is able to breathe.
- Don’t put anything between the teeth or inside the person’s mouth. This is unnecessary and could be dangerous for the person or for you.
- Stay close to the person until they have completely recovered.
- Remember that a seizure lasts less than three minutes in most cases.
- If several seizures follow one another, if a seizure lasts more than five minutes or if the person has trouble breathing or is injured, call emergency services right away.
- Don’t try to carry the person during a seizure.
Watch for the warning signs of a seizure, which may differ from one person to another―some people have none. Here are a few examples: stomach problems, headache, dizziness, vision problems, taste and smell perception, etc.
If you or someone close to you has to deal with epileptic seizures, find out as much as you can about the condition. If needed, talk to a healthcare professional. If you must take an antiepileptic, remember that your pharmacist is the most valuable source of information in terms of medication.