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Today, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy. People with epilepsy have to face a lot of stigma in society because of the myths surrounding this disease. The stigma downgrades the quality of life and provides deep mental trauma to the already suffering patients. Besides, lack of awareness restricts people from knowing how to provide first aid to anyone suffering from seizures.
What is epilepsy?
According to Dr Abhishek Juneja, Senior Consultant Neurologist – Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, New Delhi, Dr. Juneja’s Neuro center, epilepsy is a neurological disorder presenting seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It is also known as a seizure disorder. At least two seizure episodes, that are not because of any other known medical condition, are required to make a diagnosis of epilepsy.
What are seizures?
Seizures happen because of abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain. They may occur because of brain injury, infection, metabolic derangements, or genetic reasons. Many a times, the cause may be unknown.
The expert outlines that seizure signs and symptoms may include:
* A staring spell
* Eye or facial twitching
* Jerky movements of the arms and legs
* Loss of consciousness or awareness
* Urinary incontinence
* Tongue bite
Symptoms may differ based on the type of seizure. Eye or facial twitching, jerky movement of one hand or foot may happen in focal seizures. While tonic posturing followed by jerky movements of all limbs usually happen in generalized seizures.
Also read: Fatima Sana Shaikh opens up about her struggle with epilepsy, says she has learnt to “live around it”
First aid for seizure
People around a person suffering from epilepsy should know how to manage seizures. Dr Juneja advises to follow the 3 S’s
Stay: Stay with the seizing person until he/she regains consciousness. A typical generalized seizure lasts for a few minutes. Call the ambulance immediately to save the crucial time.
Safe: Keep the person safe. Any sharp objects or items lying in the vicinity that might injure the patient, should be removed. The patient should be placed in a safe, well lit, and open space.
Side: Turn the patient on one side after the jerky movements subside. This will prevent the tongue from falling back and obstructing the airway, enabling the patient to breathe comfortably. Loosen the clothes around the neck area.
Dr Juneja recommends also recommends to avoid putting or inserting anything like a spoon, or wooden stick in the mouth of the seizing person.
Check out this video on first aid for seizures
Need for epilepsy awareness
“We should bring a difference to the lives of patients suffering from epilepsy by spreading more awareness about this disease, about first aid that may be offered to a seizing patient, and also dispel the myths surrounding this condition,” says Dr Juneja.
When it comes to epilepsy treatment, you must know it can be treated and managed with safe and effective medications.
Another key aspect is the fact that people with epilepsy are more likely to have psychological problems, especially depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
These problems are due to the difficulty faced by such people in dealing with the condition.
Myths and misconceptions around epilepsy have survived too long, encouraging the stigma around this condition. People have only gradually started opening up about their illness.
“If a person suffers from stigma, it can hinder their willingness to seek treatment. This can further disrupt the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the individual,” he adds.
Therefore, there is a need to increase awareness about the symptoms, diagnosis, and management of epilepsy so that the social barriers to treatment are reduced. Patients with epilepsy can also lead a normal and productive life if they get support from society.