Saturday, January 17, 2009

What you should know about Epilepsy and seizure disorders

What it is

Seizure disorder, or epilepsy, is caused by abnormal electrical signals in the brain, and effects about one-half of 1 percent of the population, though up to 5 percent of people may experience a seizure at some time in their lives.

It can be inherited at birth, or brought on by drugs, a blow to the head, a tumor, infection, a stroke, or unknown causes.

Seizures can be mild, causing tingling, uneasiness, and a blank stare; or they may be severe, causing convulsions, blackouts and other symptoms. If a seizure causes a person to stop breathing, it can cause death, though this is rare.

How it's treated

There is no known cure, but seizure disorder can often be controlled with medication. Other options include surgery to remove affected parts of the brain, or sending electrical impulses to the brain to inhibit unwanted activity.

It also can help to avoid triggers such as alcohol, stress and lack of sleep.

How to respond

If possible, make sure the person doesn't fall and suffer a head injury, and get them away from water. Lay the person in a clear area where they can't hit any hard objects, and cushion the head.
Don't try to restrain the person, don't move them, and don't put anything in the person's mouth.
Check for a medical bracelet that may list the person's condition or doctor. If this is the person's first seizure or they don't have a medical bracelet, call 911.

For someone who has a history of seizures, and is already under medical treatment for them, they may not need emergency treatment for a typical seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than two to five minutes, is repeated, or they are not regaining consciousness between seizures.

When the seizure stops, the person may be disoriented or confused, but talk to them to see if they are all right or need any help.

Sources: Dr. Roy Sucholeiki, director of the Comprehensive Seizure and Epilepsy Program at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield; Dr. Prashanti Boppana, neurologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge; the National Institutes of Health


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