Epilepsy is a medical condition affecting 3.4 million people in the U.S. An epileptic person experiences seizures which are not a result of temporary ailments like extreme fever. It is vital to understand epilepsy to enable you to assist someone suffering from it. Such awareness empowers you to provide first-hand assistance in an emergency, which could save lives.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition that manifests when there is a disruption of nerve cell activity in the brain. The interruption happens due to malfunctions in the brain, e.g., imbalance in brain chemicals and changes in brain cell features. The condition causes seizure attacks in victims and varies in severity. The attacks may be mild, leading to dizziness or, in the extreme, complete loss of consciousness.
Some seizures have known causes like brain injury, infection, abnormal development, etc. Some epileptic conditions’ triggers are unknown and others are genetic. Particular risk factors increase vulnerabilities to the disease. Such risk factors include strokes, traumatic brain injury, metabolic disorders, dementia, etc.
A person is diagnosed as epileptic when they have more than two unprovoked seizure attacks in 24 hours. Frequent, uncontrolled seizure attacks are harmful to the brain hence the need for treatment. However, some types of seizures are not responsive to medication. In such cases, special diets help in keeping them at bay.
There is currently no known cure for some forms of epilepsy. Further scientific research is necessary for accurate prediction of the attacks to discern a treatment. The best intervention for a victim is controlling the severity of attacks and assisting in fast recovery during each episode.
Signs Of A Seizure
Knowing the signs of a seizure helps identify someone experiencing it and, helping them through the recovery process. A seizure attack can cause anxiety for the victim and the witness if they are unsure of actions to take. The common seizure symptoms include loss of consciousness, jerking movements, staring into space, and having trouble talking.
Mild seizure attacks do not lead to unconsciousness but severe ones do. The victim will not be aware of their surroundings and suddenly fall to the ground. The episode also leads to having uncontrollable muscle spasms that make the victim flail their arms and legs vigorously. Such jerking movements often indicate that someone has a seizure attack.
Staring into space is another common sign of a seizure. The staring is sometimes confused for absentmindedness if you do not observe closely. The victim suddenly stops what they were doing and stares blankly, and is motionless. The episode can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Difficulty in talking is also a sign of a seizure. During the attack, the victim will be incoherent and unable to utter any word, even their name. The sudden interference of brain function disables their speech and thought patterns.
The visible symptoms of a seizure attack appear suddenly and can last up to five minutes. In some instances, victims get early signs of the attack that is usually a warning of an impending attack. Such symptoms involve a feeling of deja vu or sudden anxiety. The victim gets a trepidation feeling that they are experiencing something they have gone through in the past.
How To Help
There are several ways you can help someone having a seizure to keep them safe and assist through the recovery. The first thing to do during an episode is to clear the area where the victim is. The jerking movements are vigorous and nearby objects can result in injury.
A rule of the thumb is not to try and hold them down to obstruct their movements. You should only gently help them to the ground and allow them the freedom of movement. Knowing the first aid for seizures also gives a guideline of first-hand assistance to help anyone with epilepsy.
The first responder guidelines involve a three S approach—Stay, Safe, Side. You must stay with the victim throughout the attack to offer them comfort and alleviate their anxiety. You ought to keep them safe from potentially harmful items in the environment. You should place them on their side in a recovery position as you wait out the attack.
An attack that lasts for more than five minutes warrants emergency assistance. You should hence time the episode and call 911 if it goes beyond five minutes. The extended episode is usually an indication that the situation has deteriorated, requiring urgent professional assistance.
Help And Save A Life
Helping someone when having a seizure attack can save a life. Most attacks are mild and only require minimal assistance to get through. However, the wrong interventions can transform a mild attack into a life-threatening episode.