Epilepsy affects almost every aspect of the life of the person diagnosed with the condition.

On International Epilepsy Day on Monday (13/02) the emphasis was once again placed on the stigma attached to this condition.

For many people living with epilepsy, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the stigma attached to the condition is more difficult to deal with than the condition itself.

This stigma continues today and can impact the quality of life for people with the disease and their families.

Many assume that epilepsy is a mental illness, that it limits activities, or even that epilepsy is contagious.

Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable condition of the brain that affects around 50 million people worldwide.

It is characterised by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalised).

Epilepsy is sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and, in some cases, the loss of control over bowel or bladder function.

According to who.int, seizure episodes are a result of excessive electrical discharges in a group of brain cells. Different parts of the brain can be the site of such discharges.

Seizures can vary from the briefest lapses of attention or muscle jerks, to severe and prolonged convulsions.

Seizures can also vary in frequency, from less than one per year to several per day.

One seizure does not signify epilepsy. According to medical research, up to 10% of people worldwide have one seizure during their lifetime. The Epilepsy Foundation stated that “every brain has the potential to seize. A person with epilepsy has a lower seizure threshold – meaning they are more likely to have seizures than people without epilepsy.”

It is one of the world’s oldest recognised conditions, with records dating back to 4 000 B.C. Also, there are many different types of seizures and types of epilepsy syndromes.

Myths debunked

Characteristics of seizures vary and depend on where in the brain the disturbance first starts, and how far it spreads.

Although many underlying disease mechanisms can lead to epilepsy, the cause of the disease is still unknown in about 50% of cases globally. The causes of epilepsy are divided into broad categories of structural, genetic, infectious, metabolic, immune, and unknown.

Seizures can be controlled and up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could become seizure free with appropriate use of anti-seizure medicines.

You cannot swallow your tongue during a seizure. It is physically impossible.

Never force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. This can lead to a chipped tooth or broken jaw.

Do not restrain someone having a seizure. Most seizures end in seconds or a few minutes.

Epilepsy is not contagious.

Anyone can develop epilepsy. Seizures start for the first time in people over 65 years, almost as often as it does in children.

Most people with epilepsy can do the same things that people without epilepsy can do.

People with epilepsy can handle jobs with responsibility and stress.

People with seizure disorders are found in all walks of life. If stress triggers their seizures, they may need to learn ways to manage stress.


Source: news24.com, Helena Barnard