Two or more recurring seizures define epilepsy
The room goes black. Drool forms at their mouths. Their bodies start to shake. Anger or fear rises within them.
More than 60 million people live with these problems and more as part of their conditions known as epilepsy.
Epilepsy is defined as having “recurrent seizures,” according to Dr. Michelle Lyon of Carolina Musculoskeletal Institute.
“A seizure is the physical findings or changes in behavior that occur after an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain,” as stated by the Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia.
They can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and can be triggered by lack of sleep, stress or improper use of medication, Lyon said.
All it takes is just two unprovoked seizures to be treated for epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
People can either be born with epilepsy or have it occur from a “malformation in the brain,” Lyon said.
Among other causes are infections, head trauma and stroke – mainly with the elderly – and bleeding in the brain – mainly seen in newborns.
The human brain is the source of human epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
There are five general categories in which seizures are organized into – generalized seizures, partial seizures, gelastic seizures, dacrystic seizures, non-epileptic seizures and status epilepticus.
Generalized seizures, impacting both cerebral hemispheres, cause loss of consciousness.
Partial seizures, the most common type, last up to 2 minutes maximum and tend to end by themselves.
Gelastic and dacrystic seizures are found in people with the brain tumor hypothalamic hamartoma.
Non-epileptic seizures are challenges to diagnose due to the fact they just look like epileptic seizures but are not caused by electrical disruptions in the brain.
Status epilepticus is severe in the sense that the seizures are nonstop and require that the person seek immediate medical attention.
Flashing lights and visual patterns can trigger seizures for those who have the form known as photosensitive epilepsy.
There is no cure for epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
Medication can be used as a form of treatment, Lyon said.
“Most people can be treated with medication,” she said.
Antiepileptic drugs are one type used. Surgery or implanted stimulators are other possibilities, Lyon added. Those are typically needed, however, if the medication has failed.
The Epilepsy Foundation also proposes a ketogenic diet. This diet “mimics starvation” with the first 24 hours requiring that no food be eaten, and the rest consists of foods high in fat and low in carbohydrates.
This diet is advised to be supervised by the proper medical physicians.
If you are around someone who is experiencing a seizure, stay calm, Lyon said.
“Be sure the patient can’t hurt themselves, (and) time the seizure,” she said.
If the attack has gone on for 5 to 10 minutes, call an ambulance.
“Never put anything in the patient’s mouth, like a finger or tongue blade,” Lyon said.
Don’t hold the person or try to stop his seizure either, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
Stay with them until it ends, and call EMS if another seizure occurs.
Neurologists, pediatric neurologists, pediatricians, neurosurgeons, internists and family physicians can all be contacted for advice and treatment options.
Lyon refers people to the epilepsy program at Georgia Regents Medical Center.
The program at the Augusta hospital can be reached at 706-721-4626.
For more information on epilepsy, visit www.epilepsyfoundation.org.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.