The CDC estimates that over 126,400 people have been diagnosed with some type of Epilepsy and over 3 million adults and 470,000 children are affected nationally. Raising awareness to how common epilepsy is reduces the stigma for those affected and helps to educate the community on how to best assist those with the condition.
Epilepsy is a broad term used to describe a brain disorder that causes disruptions recognized as seizures. There are many types of Epilepsy and types of seizures. The types of Epilepsy are determined by the area of the brain involved. If both sides of the brain are involved then they are classified as “generalized” and if only one area or side is involved they are “focal” or “partial.” Generalized seizures can be “tonic-clonic” or “grand mal” where the person begins jerking, shaking and even calling out. Absent seizures can be another type of generalized seizure that can be described as staring spells, a simple eye roll, or abnormal pause in behavior. “Focal” or “partial” seizures usually are described as localized twitching or tingling or even a sudden strange taste. Most seizures are treatable with medications and vary greatly on severity for each individual.
In addition to medications many people use alternative methods to help reduce episodes, this can include diet modifications, herbal remedies, stress reduction, acupuncture, exercise and many others. There are even trained service dogs to warn those with the condition of an oncoming episode. These dogs are trained to predict and warn owners of an upcoming seizure, thus helping them to reach a safe place. Some service dogs are also trained to assist during active seizures by placing themselves in way of danger or breaking a fall.
For those with Epilepsy, seizures are a part of their life and are usually not an emergency, but it’s important to know how to help in a situation if you encounter someone having a seizure. First, you need to be sure you both are in a safe location to prevent injury. This could mean moving away from water or traffic or lowering the person to the floor. Remove eye glasses and loosen any restrictive clothing such as a necktie. Stay with the person until the seizure is over and record duration. Do not attempt to hold the person down or put anything in their mouths. Call 911 for any seizure lasting over 5 minutes.
Children with Medical Handicaps (CMH) serves ages 0-21 years old and can help. If your family is affected by Epilepsy please contact Angie Rosler RN, 740-992-6626, ext. 1075. CMH may be able to help with your medical expenses even if you already have insurance.
Angie Rosler is the Children with Medical Handicaps nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.