What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition causing the neurons in the brain to misfire resulting in a seizure. The seizures will differ from person to person, but all are severe and not fun. There are many different types of seizures and all present in different ways. Epilepsy does not mean fall down and shake. Epilepsy means “seizure disorder” and it’s time we learn a bit more about these seizures.

Fast Facts:

  • 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their life
  • Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition
  • 3.4 million people are living with epilepsy (just in the United States)
  • 65 million people are living with epilepsy, worldwide
  • 1/3 of people with epilepsy don’t respond to treatment
  • You can NOT swallow your tongue during a seizure
  • There are over 40 different types of seizures
  • Approximately 50,000 people die each year from SUDEP or epilepsy related seizures
  • 1/3 of people with epilepsy suffer from anxiety and depression
  • 2/3 of epilepsy cases, the cause is unknown

Do’s and Don’ts of seizure first aid

Remain calmPanic
Time seizurePut any objects inside the persons mouth
Protect headHold the person down
Remove any harmful objectsTry to bring the person out of it
Call 911 if seizure lasts for more than 5 minutesTry to force any food or water in their mouth until fully recovered
Talk calmly after seizureMove person unless absolutely necessary

Two common types of seizures are generalized and focal seizures. Generalized seizures occur all over the brain. Focal seizures come from one specific area of the brain (again this varies from person to person).

Types of Seizures and What to Look For

Generalized SeizuresFocal Seizures
Tonic- sudden stiffening of muscles, primarily in the arms, legs and back Sudden feelings of intense emotions like happiness,
anger, sadness or nausea
Clonic- repetitive jerking movements on both sides of the bodyrepetitive blinking, swallowing, chewing motions,
wandering or confused speech
Myoclonic- jerking or twitching, primarily in the arms, legs, and upper bodymotor or sensory abnormalities
Atonic- sudden loss of muscle tone, resulting in falls and not being able to hold head upauras (a sense or awareness that a seizure is coming)
Tonic Clonic- often referred to as Grand Mal, a combination of the tonic and clonic symptoms listed above

All seizures need to be taken seriously. There are no “small” seizures. They affect the person having the seizure in so many ways. Emotionally you feel drained, physically you feel like you have no control, and it takes quite the toll on your psychological state. Learn more about epilepsy and seizure first aid and you might be able to save somebody’s life.

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