Seizures are scary events to witness and to go through. Seizure disorders, also called epilepsy, are chronic conditions that result in a variety of seizure activity. Seizures happen when the electrical signals in the brain get triggered. Some seizures are caused by brain injuries, or tumors that cause structural changes. Some have genetic causes. Some occur due to brain inflammation or infections like meningitis. However, about half of seizure disorders have no known cause.
Since March is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and I have two family members impacted by seizure disorders, I decided to learn more about it.
Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders Statistics
- 65 MILLION: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
- 3.4 MILLION: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy.
- 1 IN 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
- BETWEEN 4 AND 10 OUT OF 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time.
- 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year
- ONE-THIRD: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because existing medications do not work for them.
- 6 OUT OF 10: Number of people with epilepsy where the cause is unknown. From the Epilepsy Foundation.
What Does A Seizure Look Like?
In order to take the fear out of seeing a seizure, I’m sharing the following information. What happens during a seizure depends on what part of the brain is affected by the surge of electrical signals. Below are 4 examples of seizures:
- The most obvious seizure is the kind that makes a person lose consciousness, drop to the floor, and convulse violently. The body is rigid and jerking. This type is called a Tonic-Clonic Seizure.
- Infants and children sometimes will have seizures when they have a high fever. These are called Febrile Seizures.
- An Absence Seizure occurs when a person suddenly stops all activity and appears to be staring off into space. They may also have movements of their eyes, or lips during the episode. These can be difficult to spot. The person is not aware of what was going on around them during the seizure.
- In Focal Seizures the person is aware of what is going on, but becomes frozen and unable to move for a brief period of time.
There are many other types of seizures, but these give you an idea of what a seizure may look like. If you have a loved one or co-worker who has a seizure disorder, talk with them about what their seizures look like, and what they need from you if they have a seizure in your presence.
Seizures Have 3 Parts To Them
Beginning: Some epileptics get an aura before a seizure happens. This can be an unusual smell or taste, a visual disturbance, numbness/tingling, dizziness, or a sense of impending danger or anxiety. Not every epileptic gets an aura.
Middle: Any of these symptoms may occur: Loss of muscle tone leading to slumping or falling, loss of consciousness, inability to talk or hear. Visual hallucinations or flashing lights. Rigid tense muscles, or jerking movements. Drooling or loss of control over bladder or bowel function. Repeated non-purposeful or purposeful movements. Repeated blinking or staring, or eyes looking in a certain direction. A person may bite their tongue during a seizure, so you may see blood in their mouth.
Ending: After the seizure the person may be very sleepy and confused. They may have difficulty talking. They might have a headache, dizziness. or stomach upset. They may need to sleep for minutes or hours afterwards to recover. They may have muscle weakness and feelings of upset, fear, shame, etc. If they fell, they may have injuries.
How To Help Someone Having a Seizure
The following video shows how to help someone who is having a Tonic-Clonic Seizure.
First Aid Steps Review
- Stay with them and keep calm.
- Keep them safe. Make sure they are in a safe place and pad their head with something soft so they aren’t hitting their head on something hard.
- Turn them on their side. Don’t hold them down or try to put something into their mouth.
- Time the seizure. If it lasts more than 5 minutes call for an ambulance.
Wrap-Up Of Seizure Disorders
Epilepsy is treated with medications and avoidance of triggers that cause a person to have a seizure. For example, flashing lights can induce seizures in some people. In that case they need to avoid movies, or video games with flashing lights in them. Staying vigilant with taking medication is also important. If you miss too many doses the medication level will decrease in the body and can lead to a seizure. Lack of sleep can also lead to a seizure.
In some cases surgery may be needed to correct the structural cause of the seizure activity. There are other treatments available as well. Obviously, living with uncontrolled seizures ruins quality of life. It’s important to manage them as best as possible. If you need more help with managing your medications, please check out this post and free guide to managing medications safely.
I hope this information helped you understand seizures better and know how to help someone having a seizure. Till next time, Kathy
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