Epilepsy is a very common neurological disorder that occurs in a form of ‘seizure’. Epilepsy is also called ‘Seizure disorder’. Just like October is the month of spreading awareness for breast cancer and hence named as ‘Pinktober’, November is globally considered as ‘Epilepsy Awareness Month’.
What is Epilepsy?
Just like blood is responsible for many functions like supplying oxygen to the whole body, neurons in the brain travel through the whole body sending us signals in order to perform our voluntary and involuntary body actions. When there is an abnormal activity or a disruption in the flow of these neurons, an epileptic seizure occurs. If a person has a seizure more than once in a short period of time, it may be diagnosed as epilepsy after going through various tests.
Reasons behind Epilepsy
There is a number of reasons that can cause an epileptic seizure:
- Head Injury
- Sleep Deprivation
- Brain Tumors
- Brain Infections
Anything that is damaging or affecting our brain can be a reason leading to a seizure. In most of the cases the reason of epilepsy is known but there are some cases as well known to doctors where the exact reason behind seizures is still unknown.
Approximately 7-8% of people in their life experience an epileptic seizure.
Types of Epilepsy
Epileptic seizures are majorly categorized into two groups:
- Generalized Seizures
- Focal/Impartial Seizures
Our Brains are divided into two hemispheres; left and right hemisphere. When both of these hemispheres are affected by an abnormal activity of neurons, a generalized seizure occurs. Generalized seizures are of six different types:
- Grand Mal (Tonic-Clonic Seizure)
In the Grand Mal Seizure, a person would instantly lose its consciousness and may fall on the ground. This is the ‘Tonic’ phase of the seizure and in the next phase of the seizure which is the ‘Clonic’ phase, the muscles get stiff, breathing becomes difficult and the whole body is jerking. Other than that any saliva in the person’s mouth may come out in the form of a lather, and person may bite its tongue due to which bleeding may occur. This seizure lasts for a maximum of 3 minutes. A seizure lasting for five or more than five minutes could be life-threatening.
- Absence Seizure (Petit Mal)
An absence seizure is a kind of generalized seizure where a person becomes unconscious for a few seconds but there are no convulsions involved. The person may look like it is staring at something with short movements like blinking rapidly, breathing heavily, hand movements etc.
- Tonic Seizure
In the tonic seizure, a person would become unconscious and the muscles of arms, legs, face, and back stiffen up. This type of seizure occurs rarely on its own. It’s usually a part of some other generalized seizure like Grand Mal seizure.
- Clonic Seizure
In the clonic seizure, a person may lose its consciousness and there would be a patterned twitching in the body muscles.
- Atonic Seizure
An Atonic Seizure or also called a ‘Drop Attack’ is a seizure where the person loses its consciousness all of a sudden and may fall on the floor. It is not followed by any convulsions and the person may start walking once conscious.
- Myoclonic Seizure
In a Myoclonic seizure, a part of a body or the whole body may jerk. The person stays conscious. The jerk can occur once or may follow a pattern for some time.
A Focal or Impartial seizure occurs when only one part (hemisphere) of the brain is affected by the abnormal neurological flow. Impartial seizures are of two types:
- Focal Aware
In a focal aware seizure also known as ‘Simple Partial Seizure’, the person retains its consciousness and memory. The seizure lasts for about two minutes.
- Focal impaired Awareness
In the Focal impaired seizure also known as ‘Complex Partial Seizure’, a person may lose its consciousness and there is no memory of it after it has passed.
Some people might be able to tell that they are about to have a seizure known as ‘Aura’. An Aura might be a sense of smell, a taste, a visual experience or a bodily pain.
What to do if Someone has a Seizure in Front of You?
|Make sure there are no objects around that can injure the person during the seizure.||Do not insert anything inside the mouth.|
|Stay Calm! If the seizure started in front of you, note the time of seizure.||Do not try to resist the body from jerks; it can cause bones to break.|
|If the seizure is nearing five minutes, call the ambulance.||Do not let a crowd gathered near the patient.|
|After the seizure has stopped, roll the person on the side to let out blood and saliva.||If you’re dealing as a stranger, do not bombard the patient with questions after it wakes up.|
|In case of any injury, seek for first aid.||Do not sprinkle water on the person’s face trying to wake up after the seizure.|
|Inform somebody close to the person like family. If the person is a stranger, call an ambulance.||Do not perform CPR.|
What to Expect from a Patient after a Seizure?
After the seizure has stopped, a patient may show ‘Post-ictal state’, which is a changeover form of unconsciousness. This state may last from 5 to 30 minutes. A patient may experience the following things:
- Blood from mouth due to tongue biting
- A severe Headache
- Poor vision
- Slurred speech
Epilepsy in Pakistan
According to Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui from Epilepsy Foundation Pakistan: “More than 2 million Pakistanis are affected by Epilepsy out of which only 20% are visiting doctors and under medication”
In Pakistani culture, Epilepsy is linked to a lot of superstitious and demonic possessions and hence people seek for wrong solutions from the wrong kind of people or in most cases, they keep it a secret just so that they may not embarrass themselves in front of the society.
The truth of the matter is it’s just another disease that can be controlled with the medication and in many cases completely curable.