Seizures are transient neurological abnormalities that are caused by abnormal electrical activities in the brain. Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures. The brain controls the functions of the body by sending and receiving electrical impulses conducted through neurons (i.e., nerve cells) which act as messengers between the brain and other parts of the body, thus forming the communication complexity of the nervous system.
This medical condition is commonly called convulsion. When abnormal changes occur to disrupt the communication complex, the electrical impulses produced by a part or different parts of the brain become anomalous, thus causing a brief neurological disorder (seizures) or a recurring neurological disorder (epilepsy). Usually, most seizures span from 30 seconds to two minutes. If it occurs continuously for more than five minutes or there are more than two seizures without a complete regain of consciousness, it becomes a life-threatening condition called "Status Epilepticus", which is usually treated as a medical emergency. According to WHO, it is estimated that about 50 million people are living with this disease globally.
The various causes of epilepsy include:
- Family history (or genetic hereditary) of epilepsy
- Severe head injuries that damaged the brain
- Brain infections, e.g. meningitis, encephalitis
- Birth trauma, e.g. low birth weight, falls, lack of oxygen
- Spiking fever
How to Recognize Seizures/Epilepsy
To adequately recognize an epileptic attack, you need to know the types and associating seizure signs the person is having at the moment. There are broadly two classifications of epileptic seizures: Partial and generalized seizures (Ann Pietrangelo (2017).
Partial Seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activities in one part of the brain. It could be a simple or complex partial seizure. In simple partial seizure, consciousness is not lost. However, it is characterized by abnormal twitching (i.e., convulsive) movement; tingling sensation (i.e., feelings of pricks or stings); hallucination, i.e. a falsified imagination or feeling of taste, vision, or smell (British Medical Association, 2008).
Complex Partial Seizure is characterized by loss of consciousness, staring spells (i.e., having blank stares) and repetitive movement of a body part, e.g. the hand, legs, head, etc.
Generalized Seizures occur due to the abnormal electrical activities that affect the whole brain, and may be associated with loss of consciousness. There are various forms of generalized seizures, which include:
Absence Seizures occur in children and is characterized by a brief loss of consciousness, blank stares, abnormal repetitive movements, e.g. lip-smacking, continuous blinking of the eyes, etc.
Tonic Seizures are characterized by the stiffening of the muscles in the body, usually the back, arm, and leg which causes the victims to fall.
Atonic Seizures are characterized by the loss of muscle tone (or muscle weakness) which causes the person to fall.
Clonic Seizures are characterized by repetitive jerky movements of the arms, neck, and face.
Myoclonic Seizures are characterized by the rapid, jerky movements of the arms and legs.
Tonic-Clonic Seizures are the most complicated form of seizure which occur in two stages. The first stage is characterized by body stiffening and shaking, arching of the back, clenching of the jaw, breathing difficulty, bladder incontinence, biting of the tongue, etc. The second stage is characterized by muscle relaxation, regular breathing, regain of consciousness with a confused look and deep sleep.
How to help
Make space around the person and clear all dangerous objects from the area
Lose tight clothing around the neck, and cushion the person's head with soft padding such as with rolled towels.
During the episode, do not forcefully lift the person away from the current place (except if the site is very unsafe) but help him/her to maintain a flat position.
If the person has a clenched jaw or bites the tongue, keep an open airway, by pulling his/her chin downwards to open the mouth. Check for and remove any obstructing object in the mouth.
Call for emergency medical help if the seizures continue for more than five minutes or if there are two fits without a regain of consciousness.
If the convulsive movement stops, place the person in a recovery position. To do this, you have to:
Kneel by the person's side, and put the person’s hand nearest to you upward at a right angle while lying down.
Roll the person over to your side, and place the nearest leg also at a right angle and close to the person's body.
Monitor the person's breathing
If another seizure occurs within five minutes, repeat the steps above and call for emergency medical help.
Health tips are supplied by AUN Health Center