November is National Epilepsy month. It allows the epilepsy community to educate the public about what epilepsy is, generate funds for research, and to find a cure.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures. It is known as a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures they are considered to be epileptic. Seizures occur when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, which may briefly alter a person’s consciousness, movements or actions. Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide. Epilepsy is not contagious.
For most people a cause of their epilepsy cannot be found. With the rest of the people, the cause can differentiate. For example, head injuries or lack of oxygen during birth may damage the delicate electrical system in the brain. Other causes include brain tumors, genetic conditions (such as tuberous sclerosis), lead poisoning, problems in development of the brain before birth, and infections like meningitis or encephalitis. Epilepsy is often thought to be a childhood condition, but it can develop at any time. About 30 percent of the 200,000 new cases every year begin in childhood, particularly in early childhood and around the time of adolescence. Another period of relatively high incidence is in people over the age of 65.
When providing seizure first aid for seizures, these are the key things to remember:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
- Time the seizure with your watch.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
- Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear. Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. It is not true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can cause injury.
- Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.