A seizure can be a frightening experience, but epilepsy can be even more worrisome. Whenever it happens, the patient and family should be ready to attend to the problem immediately. There are different kinds of epilepsy and understanding the process of each one will be helpful in the stability and independence of affected patients. The condition has been present for rare brain disease thousands of years and until now, scientists and doctors are still researching more about the occurrence to distinguish the relative effects and risks 01, 02.
- What triggers epilepsy?
- Can epilepsy be cured?
- Can epilepsy go away?
Epilepsy is one of the earliest brain disorders discovered by ancient physicians 03.
In fact, the earliest recorded symptoms related to the condition dates back to 3,000 years ago 04, when it was thought that demons had taken over the human body as a form of attack or punishment. In those days, the illness was treated by prayers and chants and the application of what we now call exorcism.
The Ancient Greeks had thought that epilepsy was largely a manifestation of the wrath of Selene 04, the goddess of the moon. Eating a mistletoe harvested using a blade or sickle at a time the moon is at its smallest was believed to be the only cure.
During the period of enlightenment, in the 1600s, people started believing less in the involvement of spirits and demons in epileptic seizures 05. However, people during this time thought the illness contagious, hence, those who were suffering it were forced to be locked up in mental facilities. There was even a time in the Modern ages when those with the condition were banned from getting married or having children, due to the belief that it can be inherited and passed on.
For several centuries, experts continued to observe patients and describe the symptoms of the problem. The condition is actually a problem wherein clusters of neurons or nerve cells found in the brain send signals the wrong way. Neurons generally produce electrochemical impulses that will also work with other neurons, muscles and glands in the body thereby producing thoughts, actions and emotions 06.
Among epileptic patients, the regular activities of neurons will be impaired or impeded so affected individuals will start to show a variety of behaviors and feelings. It is also expected of them to experience seizures, muscle spasms and convulsions every now and then 07. When a seizure happens, this is due to the neurons sending electrical impulses at a very rapid rate. The impulses may be forwarded only a few times for other people, while the rest might experience more severe and frequent forms.
Describing The Condition
Millions of individuals in the United States and around the world are affected by epilepsy. Majority of affected individuals have seizures that are actually managed well by medicines and a number of other surgical processes. Other individuals with the condition will also have these in mild form considering that they get state-of-the-art and top quality treatment and interventions. Intractable epilepsy is not as common and is described as having episodes of seizures despite the availability of quality and sound treatment. Once a person experiences two or more seizures, he will be categorized as an epileptic 08.
Epilepsy cannot be transmitted from one person to the other. Those with the condition are also not classified as mentally ill. It is possible for some mentally retarded patients to experience seizures but not all those who experience an attack is mentally ill. Individuals diagnosed with the condition have average or even above average IQ. There are many well-known individuals around the globe who have continued living normal and healthy lives despite the condition 09.
There are so many kinds of epilepsy just as there are also several types of seizures. Physicians have identified hundreds of epilepsy syndromes which are abnormalities that include a certain set of symptoms including epilepsy itself. Some have unidentified triggers and causes while others seem to be genetic and passed on from parent to child. Epilepsy syndromes are identified according to the presentation and region of origin 10.
More Kinds of Epilepsy
Absence epilepsy is described as having repetitive lapses of consciousness. These momentary lapses are called absent seizures wherein the person will show sudden jerky motions, blinking eyes in a rapid manner and loss of focus. The problem can be traced from the time the patient is still in his childhood years. When the person reaches his teenage years, the person might experience problems concentrating and temporary memory loss 11.
Neocortical epilepsy is identified by seizures that start from the brain. These are classified as generalized or focal. The problem will include a variety of symptoms like convulsions, visual hallucinations, abnormal sensations, muscle spasms and emotional shifts. TLE or temporal lobe epilepsy is one of the most common brain diseases wherein individuals feature focal seizures. The hippocampus which is responsible for memory and information processing will reduce in size, thereby hindering the learning capacity of the individual.
Another type of epilepsy is the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome 12 which will feature atonic seizures. The condition is characterized by sudden fainting or falling. The condition can also disappear for a few years before returning again. The condition is usually permanent so treatment should focus more on supporting the patient and helping him cope with the effects.
Approaching The Condition
When epilepsy happens among patients with brain diseases, your approach should focus more on the safety and stability of the patient experiencing a seizure. If the patient feels as if he’s about to have a seizure, let him sit in a safe place then wait a few minutes. If the person suddenly drops or falls because of seizure, roll him to one side. Keep his face in the direction of one side to keep him from choking on his saliva or vomit 13.
Cushion the head of the patient using a rolled towel or your hand during emergency situations. Loosen his tie, shirt or belt. Tilt the head back and make sure that the airway is open. Allow the tremors and shaking to ensue during the episode. Do not put things inside a person’s mouth while he is seizing. Also keep sharp items away and stay with the patient with epilepsy for as long as it takes until he regains stability.
Those who are particularly at risk like diabetic or pregnant patients should look for emergency support personnel to take them to the hospital. If the condition is concurrent with other serious conditions, take the patient to the hospital and have him assessed thoroughly to determine if there are other symptoms that need to be addressed or he needs to take certain medications or even undergo surgery.
People with epilepsy or brain diseases should be given the proper interventions and therapies that will allow them to resume normal activities of daily living. The goal is to support them in all their endeavors and allow them to cope with the debilitating effects. The family should be available and at least one person should be with him to ensure that seizures are managed in the best way. The person might also independently take care of himself during emergency situations. Have the patient voice out his concerns and worries then provide the right guidelines in coping with epilepsy.