Understanding Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects 50 million people around the globe and around 1 in 100 people in the UK have it. People are diagnosed with epilepsy because they have epileptic seizures which are caused by sudden bursts of electrical activity happening in the brain, this interrupts other signals being sent out and results in a seizure. Epilepsy can be caused by many things such as brain damage, brain tumours or it is in somebodies genetics, however most people do not have a definitive reason as to why they have the condition.

As well as this, a common misconception is that most people do not know that there is more than one type of seizure. The type of seizure which happens is based on where the electrical activity in the brain happens and how far it can spread. In addition, not all types of seizures are epileptic and it can take lots of testing to determine if somebody is having epileptic seizures.

Before a seizure happens, some people get a sign that they are about to have a seizure. This is often referred to as an aura but is actually called a focal aware seizure and it is the most common type of seizure. For many people, auras can be quite intimidating because people start to process things differently. This can include not being able to understand what people are saying-as if they are speaking a foreign language, feeling like parts of your body are detached, feeling really hot or cold and sudden muscles twitches. Generally, if a person just has a focal aware seizure then they may not be in danger.

Often a seizure is portrayed as somebody losing their consciousness and then starting to shake, this is called a tonic-clonic seizure. These seizures can be very difficult to see as the person may be hurting themselves repeatedly and sometimes it can be very hard to get them to stop without injuring yourself. Tonic-clonics can be very dangerous because it is easy for the person to do damage towards themselves as they have no control over their body as well as the fact that they may be struggling to breathe. If the person has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes, they may need emergency medical attention. To keep somebody safe during a seizure you should: cushion their head, remove any items which they may be hitting into and remove any clothing which could be restricting breathing. The stage after a tonic-clonic seizure is called the post-ictal stage where the person may be hysterical or very dazed and unsure of what has just happened, if this is the case then assure the person of what has just happened. After a seizure, some people may not be able to move or walk: this is called Todd’s paralysis and 6% of epileptic people experience this.

Another very common type of seizure is an absence seizure. This often goes unnoticed because it can look like the person is daydreaming, they become unconsciousness however their eyes may flutter and their limbs may slightly twitch. Another type of seizure which looks like twitching is a myoclonic seizure which many people can mistake for a tic condition like Tourette syndrome and they last less than a second.

The scariest thing about living with Epilepsy is the fear of SUDEP. SUDEP stands for sudden unexpected death in Epilepsy and it is where somebody has passed away due to solely a seizure, rather than having a seizure and drowning. Roughly, 1 in 1000 people with Epilepsy will die from SUDEP, meaning the average Epileptic person is up to 24 times more likely to die than the general population. Epilepsy can follow people around in their daily life, constantly interrupting and messing with everything you do. It is a lifelong condition but living with it can feel like a never ending cycle of lifetimes.

Article by Young Reporter Abiane Forrington
Appeared first in Grimsby Telegraph 24th March 2020