What is epilepsy?
The word epilepsy is derived from a Greek word meaning `a condition of being overcome, seized or attacked. ` People used to believe that the seizure was caused by a demon and epilepsy became known as a sacred disease. Thus myths and fears surrounded epilepsy. Actually epilepsy means a tendency to have seizures. During seizure there may be loss of consciousness, jerking of limbs. Eye blinking, tongue bite, or urinary incontinence which gradually recovers over time. There are more than 30types of seizures.
How to recognize epilepsy?
As stated earlier `seizure` is the symptom of epilepsy. Suspect epilepsy at any age if there are episodes of confusion, unconsciousness, altered sensation in any part of the body, jerking of limbs falls, eye blinking, staring look and feeling of abnormal smells / taste. Usually the symptoms last from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes. Rarely prolonged seizures lasting more than half an hour (status epilepticus) may occur, which may be life threatening.
What causes epilepsy?
In approximately 65% cases no cause is found. In others most frequently identified causes are: infections (Neurocysticercosis, Tuberculosis), head injury< trauma at birth, high fever (in children), alcohol, toxins stroke, tumor etc. In most cases epilepsy is not inherited. Epilepsy is in no way contagious (infectious). Certain factors can trigger seizures. E.g. Alcohol, lack of sleep, emotional stress, menstruation, exposure to flickering light withdrawal of certain drugs (especially antiepileptic medications).
Diagnosis of Epilepsy
It is usually based on the patient’s history (usually stated by the eye witness). The doctor is usually a neurologist with the experience in diagnosing and treating epilepsy. A thorough physical examination is carried out to ascertain the cause/ effect of epilepsy. Usually an EEG (electroencephalography) is carried out on computerized machine. This is a method of recording brain waves, only a good quality EEG, reviewed by an experienced neurologist can give a reliable interpretation.
Other tests like blood tests, brain imaging may be done in some cases.
It is usually comprises of antiepileptic medicines, given daily for long periods. Length of treatment will depend on various factors. Single antiepileptic drug is sufficient in most cases. Occasionally a combination of drugs or surgery may be required. Cause of epilepsy should also be treated where applicable.
How can I help someone who is having a seizure?
- Keep calm. You can’t stop a seizure once it has started. Be a good observer.
- Don’t pinch the nose of the patient. Do not put shoes near the patient’s nose.
- Ease the person to the floor and loosen clothing.
- Try to remove any hard, sharp or hot object that might injure the patient. It may be necessary to place a soft cushion under the head.
- Turn the patient on his or her side, so that saliva/vomits can flow out from the mouth.
- Don’t put anything (water, finger, spoon, medicine etc) in patient`s mouth, unless specified by the doctor.
- After the seizure the patient should be allowed to rest or to sleep if necessary.
- Don’t call ambulance immediately. After resting, most people carry on as before.
- Call the ambulance or seek medical assistance if the patient has a series of seizures or seizure lasting more than 10 minutes.
Myth (common beliefs but not true)
- Epilepsy is contagious / infectious.
- Epilepsy cannot seek employment, study, play or watch TV.
- Epileptics should not marry or have family.
- Duration of treatment is three years.
- Modern medicines (Allopathic) are not effective or have serious side effects.
- Epilepsy is noninfectious. It can’t be transmitted by contact / social interaction.
- Epileptics can join most of the profession. However they should avoid occupations in army, airlines. Fire brigade, diving, driving public vehicles etc.
- Epileptics can watch TV unless the seizure is precipitated by TV / flickering light.
- Epileptics can play most games once the seizures are controlled. However they should avoid racing, diving, boxing, mountain climbing etc.
- Epileptics usually can have normal married and sexual life.
- Duration of treatment is not fixed for 3 years it depends on several factors. Only an experienced neurologist can decide it.
- Modern medicines (Allopathy) are simply the best treatment option. Others systems have no such effective treatments. Beware of the people who guarantee cures, and advertise patient`s letter.
Avoid driving till such time it is permitted by your doctor.
Never drive a public vehicle.
Avoid shift duty, late nights. Get enough sleep.
Avoid alcohol, intoxicants.
Take medicines as advised. You also need regular check up. Report if any side effects of medicine occurs.
Discuss with your doctor, treatment plan, job, games, marriage, birth control pills, and pregnancy so on.
This is just simple & general information. For all your personal advice / query consult your doctor.