Epilepsy and Seizures – 4 causes and 5 things to avoid when giving first aid

Epilepsy and Seizures – 4 causes and 5 things to avoid when giving first aid

Epilepsy is a common disease of the brain, usually associated with seizures; which may or may not present with convulsions.
It is a neurological condition characterized by an alteration in the brain activity of a person.
Epilepsy is not sex-related as it can affect males, females, and even children.

Causes of Epilepsy

Some factors are believed to just trigger epilepsy, and some others are direct causes

  1. Genetic Factors

Many people who are genetically predisposed to some diseases tend to have a higher chance of epilepsy.
If a parent, sibling or relative has epilepsy, there is a slight chance of developing epilepsy as well. Other predisposing diseases may include; neurofibromatosis (growth of tumours in the brain), Tuberous sclerosis (growth of tumours in the brain, skin, heart and kidney), etc.

  1. Idiopathic Factors

This refers to epilepsy that occurs with no known cause. Sometimes, when epilepsy is thought to be idiopathic it may turn out not to be so.
However, a certain percentage of idiopathic cases still exist. They make up over 70 per cent of epilepsy cases.

  1. Infections that affect the brain

Meningitis – Inflammation of the meninges of the brain, and encephalitis – inflammation of the brain itself may also cause epilepsy.

  1. Brain Damage

Brain damage that occurs before or after birth may cause epilepsy.

While the majority of epilepsy cases remain idiopathic, some triggers include

  • Drugs such as cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Flashing lights may trigger epilepsy in people who are sensitive to light.
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Medications etc.

Diagnosis

The physician takes note of the following before diagnosing epilepsy

  1. Occurrence and frequency of seizures
    While some seizures may be non epileptical, the number of times one has a seizure may be helpful in diagnosis.
    Most often, when someone has seizures for two or more times with no known cause, it may is diagnosed as epilepsy.
  2. Family History
    For a patient with a clear family history of epilepsy or epilepsy related disorders; early diagnosis will be useful in treatment.
  3. Seizures following head injury
    Head injuries may affect certain parts of the brain and cause epilepsy. If the seizures are recurrent, it may be a clear sign for the physician.
  4. Seizures following triggers.
    If someone has a seizure following some of the triggers such as light, alcohol, cocaine etc., it may be indicative of epilepsy.
  5. Brain Tumors
    People who have brain tumors coupled with seizures are likely going to be epileptical.

These signs however are only indicative of the possible chances of someone having epilepsy.
Electroencephalographies, MRI of the brain, CT scans and neuroimaging studies may recommended by the physician to aid investigations.

How do I know if someone is having a Seizure?

The following symptoms may help you identify someone having a seizure

  1. Sudden expression of fear or anxiety.
  2. Loss of consciousness or awareness
  3. Uncontrollable jerking movements of the legs and arms, which may be followed by convulsions.

How to help someone having a Seizure

  1. Keep the person safe
    Due to the jerking and uncontrollable movements, it is advisable to move the person to the floor away from any sharp objects or danger.
  2. Tilt the person and help them lie on one side.
    This position helps the clear the airways and allow free flow of air. Put a soft pillow under the head if you have one. Otherwise, get small and soft and put under the head.
  3. Remove tight clothing
    Be sure to remove tight dresses, especially for clothing around the neck such as ties or tight shirts. This will also help improve respiration.
  4. Call for help and assistance to the hospital.

Things to avoid when giving First Aid

  1. Do not restrict the person’s movements.
  2. Do not put anything into their mouths. Avoid giving food or water until the person is fully conscious.
  3. Do not massage any part of the person’s body.
  4. Do not leave the person helpless. Epilepsy is not contagious.
  5. Do not bring fire or heat close to the person. Place the person in a warm and cool environment.

Contrary to myths and some opinions, anyone can come down with epilepsy just like any other disease.
Epilepsy is treatable and patients should be given optimum care and support.
Treatment may include medications as prescribed by the physician alongside therapies that help the lifestyle of the patient.

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