Growing up, somewhere around class three, there was a girl suffering from epilepsy in my class. At that time, we didn’t know what disease it was. All we knew was that, whenever she had an attack, she would fall to the floor and shake uncontrollably. We all thought she was weird and didn’t mingle with her.
I remember vividly, one fine morning. I had gone to wait for my best friend so that we would go to school together. We were neighbours and our school was also very close to us. What I heard that day really shocked me; my friend’s mom was advising her child to stay away from the girl. She told her that, if saliva from the girl touched her, she would also get epilepsy. This really got into my head and made me too scared to even sit close to the girl.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like my friend’s mom who believe this myth. Before I delve deeper into epilepsy, I would first clear the air on what seizures and convulsions are.
A seizure is a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain. The human brain communicates with the other parts of the body by sending electrical signals for movement. But things can go wrong and the brain starts sending the signals in excess, or sending abnormal messages. That is what a seizure is. Seizures usually cause the body to move in an abnormal manner. This abnormal motion is what is termed as Convulsion.
Diagnosis of Epilepsy.
When a person has multiple seizures that are not triggered by any cause like a disease, and has the tendency of recurring, together with some social or mental problems, it could be called epilepsy. A test called the Electroencephalogram (EEG) could be performed to confirm epilepsy. EEG is a painless and less invasive test where electrodes are attached to the patient’s scalp to record the electrical activity to the brain. If the person’s brain wave patterns are different from that of the average person, it could be epilepsy.
The main cause of epilepsy is not known. However, there are some factors that make a person more likely to have epilepsy than the average human being. Some of these are; old age, having too many seizures due to certain diseases, having an epileptic in your family, Stroke, injury to the head and other brain infections.
Types of Epilepsy
There are two types of Epilepsy and they are focal onset seizures and generalized onset seizures.
Focal onset seizures occur only in a particular part of the brain. It can also be called partial seizures. Generalized onset seizures are seizures that occur in the entire brain.
Epilepsy cannot be treated. However, the seizures can be managed. It is a whole medical procedure involving psychiatrists and psychologists. Anticonvulsants are drugs that may be prescribed to help reduce the convulsions. Sometimes, a ketogenic diet is recommended. This is a diet that is very high on fats and low in carbohydrates. This alters genes involved in energy metabolism in the brain, which in turn helps stabilize the function of neurons exposed to the challenges of epileptic seizures. Brain surgery could also be used to manage the occurrence of seizures. Using resective surgery, surgeons can remove the part of your brain where seizures happen.
How do I help someone having an epileptic fit?
During a seizure, when the person is convulsing, there’s usually very little you can do. Ensure that the person is safe; remove items like fire, naked wires and others that will endanger his life. Turn the person gently into one side to ensure that the person is able to breathe. Don’t try to pin the person down to prevent him from convulsing, allow him. Don’t put spoons and broomsticks in the person’s hair or mouth. Don’t give the person water until he has fully regained consciousness.
Epilepsy is not a curse nor a punishment. People living with epilepsy are not witches or wizards. Epilepsy is not a communicable disease. Even if you share cutlery or personal stuff like toothbrushes and sponges with an epileptic, there is no way you can contract the disorder.
The public must be sensitized in this issue. People should be made to understand that the myths surrounding this disorder are largely untrue. Everyone deserves love and care and epileptics are no exception. Let’s try our possible best for them to be able to live comfortably, despite their condition. Stop the stigma!