Many are the questions about epilepsy, a great unknown. May 24 is National Epilepsy Day, so before getting into this topic we are going to make a reflection: What is epilepsy for you? Epilepsy and epileptic seizures, are they the same? Is it a neurological or psychiatric disease? Could you have it if you’ve never had it? Is it a disease that appears in childhood? What to do before a person who has an epileptic seizure?
Most likely, you haven’t been able to answer most of these questions, don’t worry. Let’s start with some first data that will bring us closer to a better understanding of this brain disorder. To know the original meaning of this term it would be necessary to go back to the 5th century BC Greek in origin, it was adopted by Latin in the 15th century meaning “sudden interruption” or “interception”. In this way, reference was made the mode of appearance of characteristic symptoms, such as the so-called seizures or absences that some patients presented. From its first description, epilepsy was surrounded by mysticism, being called the sacred disease. People who suffered from it showed external signs of being possessed or demonized during these episodes, but nothing could be further from the truth.
To understand epilepsy it is necessary know the difference between epilepsy and seizures. An epileptic seizure is the result of abnormally excessive brain activity, thereby producing a set of symptoms or signs on the patient who suffers from it. However, epilepsy would be the disease that by itself predisposes to being able to have repeat epileptic seizures without any triggerand. For this reason, a subject may have a once-in-a-lifetime epileptic seizure (such as, for example, after a head injury, a sudden drop in blood glucose or substance intoxication, among others) and therefore not be considered epilepsy. .
Did you know that epilepsy is one of the most prevalent neurological diseases in the world? 8% of the world’s population will suffer a single seizure in their lifetime, however, only 1.3% will develop epilepsy. Infections, trauma and heart attacks at the brain level, as well as certain autoimmune and genetic diseases among others, can cause epilepsy, so the age of onset includes from birth to old age. Another factor derived from epilepsy is the significant psychological, social and occupational stigma about the person who suffers it.
As we have commented, the visual aspects of this disease are the most striking. Patients often present violent jerking of the extremities or episodes in which they suffer a loss of contact with the environment while performing automatisms (lip or tongue sucking, blinking, repeated hand grasp movements, etc.), which they may not later remember.
How should one act on a person suffering from an epileptic seizure?
We are facing a generalized doubt in the citizen of “on foot”, especially if it is a convulsive episode. The first of all is keep calm, since it rarely lasts longer than 1 minute and a half (although it may seem eternal) and does not usually carry life risk. The second is to observe the environment in which it has happened, confirm that it is safe and that the patient cannot be injured by any nearby object.
The patient should never be restrained even if they acquire abnormal postures, nor should objects be placed in their mouth to prevent them from biting. At the end of the crisis, the patient should be placed in the right lateral position (called the safe position) until you regain a proper level of consciousness. When the situation is controlled or in the event that more than one person is present, the emergency service should be called as soon as possible.
Now that more is known about this major neurological disease, from Grupo Virtus we remember the importance of going to a specialist for any symptoms.