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Epilepsy - the Basics

By Edited Mar 10, 2016 0 2

Being epileptic I can't understand sometimes, how many people know so little about it. People usually ask me how it affects me and what they must do if someone has a seizure and of course what causes a seizure. Looking back to when I was first diagnosed with the disability I didn't know a whole lot about it myself.
People seem to panic whenever they see someone have a seizure, which is the obvious reaction. They call the ambulance and rush the person off to hospital. It is important that anyone with epilepsy explains to their work colleagues or close friends what to do. Only after two seizures in a row do you need to be hospitalized.
I heard my neurologist giving a talk one day and he was referring to epilepsy with a new term of epilepsies. Since there are 40 different kinds of seizures, one can suffer from, I think this is very relevant.
About 50 million people in the world have epilepsy. That is roughly one in every hundred people. Epilepsy mostly develops in the childhood years and a lot of children outgrow it. However, it can develop at any age and happen to anyone. It is also common for a patient to develop the disability late in life. It is the most common neurological condition.
Mostly, epilepsy is controlled by medication. The most important thing for people with epilepsy is their quality of life. People can do the same things in life that non-epileptics can do. Although, many epileptics would argue, that this is an obstacle in their lives and there are definitely certain things that they can't do, such as various sports or jobs. It is not as easy to study, depending on the severity of the condition. 

What is epilepsy?

Basically, this is when nerve cells in the brain pass charges to the rest of the body. A seizure happens when this pattern is interrupted by a huge amount of electrical charges, which makes body go into a seizure.

Different Types of Seizures
  • Absence (previously called petit mal) where the person may appear to look blank and  stare, which will last a few minutes, until normal activity continues again.
  • Generalized tonic clonic (previously grand mal) which involves staring, stiffening of body and jerking. This lasts a few minutes
  • Complex Partial - this may start with a warning and may involve repetitive movements, along with confused moments.
These are the most common types of seizures, but as stated before the list goes on.
Research is being done all the time. At the moment epileptics control their disability with medication.
However, it is possible for surgery to be performed, depending on the type of epilepsy that the patient suffers from and the severity of the condition. The success rate for this type of operation has been very high in the past.
SUDEP - Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy – someone with epilepsy, but who was otherwise healthy, dying from the condition. This is something which is still being researched.
Precautions • Don't put anything in the patient's mouth, they will not swallow their tongue and they might break their teeth
• Cushion their head
• Stay calm
• Remove harmful objects around them
• Stay with them until they have fully recovered

Medical Attention

This can be really scarry to see. However, it is not necessary to call an ambulance, unless:

  • Repetitive Seizures occur without gaining consciousness in between
  • Seizures show no sign of stopping after five minutes


May 29, 2010 8:14pm
Lisa, I don't know how old you are or what your doctors have told you -- but one thing anyone with epilepsy needs to be aware of that my husband was never told was that the medicines you take deplete your bones of calcium.

Start taking lots and lots of calcium now. . . He has severe osteoporosis as a result of several decades of taking the medicines. We realized it too late.

Great article.
May 30, 2010 9:54am
"...Being epileptic I can’t understand sometimes how many people know so little about it."

People rarely understand (or, even care to understand) things especially when they don't directly affect them personally. It wasn't until I began working with autistic children, that I REALLY began to understand what they are going through...and how to best help address their needs....I've never had epilepsy, but I guess things may be pretty similar....I was fortunate enough to have gone through nursing school, so I do have some background understanding, but others may not be so fortunate...
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