WHAT IS EPILEPSY?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that makes people susceptible to seizures. A seizure is a change in sensation, awareness or behavior brought about by a brief electrical disturbance in the brain. Seizures vary from a momentary disruption of the senses, to short periods of unconsciousness or staring spells, to convulsions. Some people have just one type of seizure. Others have more than one type. Although they look different, all seizures are caused by the same thing: a sudden change in how the cells of the brain send electrical signals to each other. Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They can have many symptoms, from convulsions and loss of consciousness to some that are not always recognized as seizures by the person experiencing them or by health care professionals: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs.
- Epilepsy and seizures affect nearly 3 million Americans of all ages, at an estimated annual cost of $17.6 billion in direct and indirect costs
- Approximately 200,000 new cases of seizures and epilepsy occur each year
- 10% of Americans will experience a seizure in their lifetime
WHO IS AFFECTED BY IT?
Seizures are symptoms of abnormal brain function. With the exception of very young children and the elderly, the cause of the abnormal brain function is usually not identifiable. However, when seizures start, the physician will try to identify an underlying etiology (cause). This is because the most specific diagnosis as to why seizures are occurring depends on finding a cause, and proper therapy, and prognosis (or long term outcome) will depend on the cause. If a specific diagnosis of cause cannot be made, then the epilepsy will be described according to seizure type or epilepsy syndrome.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF SOMEONE IS HAVING A SEIZURE?
First aid for epilepsy is basically simple. The goal is to keep the person safe until the seizure stops naturally by itself. It is important for the public to know how to respond to all seizures, including the most noticeable kind—generalized tonic-clonic seizures, or convulsions. When providing seizure first aid for generalized tonic-clonic seizures, these are the key things to remember:
- Keep calm and reassure other people who may be nearby.
- Don’t hold the person down or try to stop his movements.
- Time the seizure with your watch.
- Clear the area around the person of anything hard or sharp.
- Loosen ties or anything around the neck that may make breathing difficult.
- Put something flat and soft, like a folded jacket, under the head.
- Turn him or her gently onto one side. This will help keep the airway clear. Do not try to force the mouth open with any hard implement or with fingers. It is NOT true that a person having a seizure can swallow his tongue. Efforts to hold the tongue down can cause injury.
- Don’t attempt artificial respiration except in the unlikely event that a person does not start breathing again after the seizure has stopped.
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends naturally.
- Be friendly and reassuring as consciousness returns.
- Offer to call a taxi, friend or relative to help the person get home if he seems confused or unable to get home by himself.
CELEBRITIES LIVING WITH EPILEPSY
Did you know these famous people have had epilepsy or are still living with it today?
- Florence Griffith Joyner – A track & field world class Olympian. She died from asphyxiation after a seizure in her sleep
- Prince – Singer who had epilepsy as a child and sang about his condition in the song The Sacrifice of Victor
- Susan Boyle – Scottish singer who was a contestant on the TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. She had epilepsy as a child
- Tiki Barber – Former NFL running back for the NY Giants
- Lil Wayne – Rapper who recently revealed in 2013 that he has suffered from epilepsy since childhood
- John Roberts – Supreme Court Chief Justice who didn’t have his first seizure until he was almost 40 years old
- Danny Glover – an Emmy nominated actor/film director who had epilepsy from ages 15-35
- Ida McKinley – President William McKinley’s wife who didn’t develop epilepsy until adulthood. Efforts were made to keep her disorder a secret
MORE INTERESTING TIDBITS ABOUT EPILEPSY
- 65 MILLION: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
- 1 IN 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
- BETWEEN 4 AND 10 OUT OF 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time.
- 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year
- ONE-THIRD: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.
- 6 OUT OF 10: Number of people with epilepsy where the cause is unknown.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION ON EPILEPSY?
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