Epilepsy is a neurological disorder causing unprovoked, recurrent, sudden electrical impulses or activity on the brain, often called as seizure. Around the world, nearly 50 million people have epilepsy, which makes it one of the most common neurological diseases globally.
Though it is a common disease, not many people know a lot of information about it. In many parts of the world, people with epilepsy and their families are often discriminated and put into shame. Awareness campaigns for this illness are also not as hyped compared to other ailments.
Let me share with you 10 things you need to know about epilepsy.
1 – Epilepsy is NOT contagious
Yes, you won’t catch it from one person nor transfer it to another. The cause of epilepsy may vary depending on their ages, but genetics by far shows a chance of 1%-5% of having the illness.
2 – Seizures don’t look the same
It is common to see someone falling down and shaking from head to toe, just like how they portray it in the movies. But did you know that seizure may also involve just a certain part of your body? They may even just be looking blankly as if they can’t hear anything you said.
3 – It can be treated
Many people can get successfully treated, though treatment may not work for some. There are still others who have uncontrolled epilepsy worldwide. Further research, cure and better treatments are urgently needed for the severe cases of this illness.
4 – Food may trigger an attack
Excess caffeine intake may trigger a seizure attack. Energy drinks, tea, and cola are also not advised as these have stimulating effects on the central nervous system, which may heighten brain activity. It is advised to have a balanced diet to have a sustained level of energy. Other studies show Keto and low-carb diets are better options for people with epilepsy.
5 – Most causes are controllable and preventable
For epilepsy caused by underlying conditions like infections, pregnancy, brain injury, tumor, and other vascular diseases, these conditions can be controlled and prevented. For conditions that can be prevented and controlled, it is suggested to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
6 – It can be diagnosed
Electroencephalogram (EEG) is the most common test for diagnosing epilepsy. Electrodes are attached to the scalp to check the brain activity, whether while performing a task or asleep.
Imaging tests, like CT scan or MRI, may be done to see if the cause of epilepsy is a tumor or other forms of abnormalities. Lab tests may also be done to check for signs of infection, liver or kidney functions or blood glucose levels, to see if these factors contribute to the seizure attacks.
7 – Do not put objects in their mouth
Contrary to the common belief, some people place towels, spoons or stick into a person’s mouth when they experience a seizure attack. Some say it is because they are afraid the person might swallow or bite their tongue.
In reality, placing any object into their mouth during an attack makes them more vulnerable. The person’s jaw and face muscles tighten during a seizure, and placing an object into their mouth might cause them to break their teeth.
8 – Memory and Thinking can be affected
People with epilepsy commonly report having problems with their memory and thinking. Some experience trouble remembering names they already knew, or can’t recall past events that happened from a distant past. Others reported difficulty concentrating or paying attention. Since epilepsy affects brain functions, more so can it affect memory and thinking.
9 – They can lead full lives
Most people with epilepsy do not see this illness as a challenge to reach their dreams, nor to work on their day-to-day activities. There are many successful people with epilepsy who work in the government, medicine, sports, entertainment, and other professions. People with uncontrolled seizure attacks, though, may find it hard to go to school or go to work.
10 – Awareness is important
For children who have been diagnosed at an early age, it is important to be an advocate of the illness. It is very important that you inform the people around the child regarding his condition, and how to do first aid.
For kids attending regular school, it will be helpful to let the teachers know. This will somehow prepare them in case the child experiences an attack when in school. For adults, it is advisable to wear a bracelet indicating that the bearer is an epileptic.
Accepting the fact that a loved one has epilepsy is difficult, coping with the disease itself is another story. It is not just the person who has epilepsy who needs to adapt, but more importantly the people around him. Support groups are available and can even be joined online.
Technology is a weapon that can be used to this advantage, not just for research, but also for reaching out to other people experiencing the same thing. Best practices can be shared.
If you feel your kid has epilepsy, seek professional help. It may be difficult to accept at first, but knowing more about this illness will open your mind and ease your day to day journey, just like what happened to me.
Source: Epilepsy Foundation