By Osagie Fadaka
Epilepsy: Seizures of the Brain Can Happen to Anybody
If you have ever witnessed someone in the throes of what used to be called an Epileptic Fit the memory can be quite alarming. In my younger days, and luckily whilst attending a first aid training the teenage son of a colleague on the course went into a seizure, collapsed on the floor, and was writhing and moaning helplessly. The course instructor at the time had to come to the rescue and I can remember seeing him put a wooden stick into the boy’s mouth to bite on and to stop him from swallowing his tongue. He was taken off to hospital in an ambulance, luckily with his mother also in attendance.
Over the years I have been on a train when a young lady had passed out, nowhere near as dramatic as the earlier experience, but still enough to disrupt the journey and for medics to be called onto the next stop.
Thankfully, these seizures are rare occurrences for most of us, but for those nearby, it can seem quite frightening at the time. As always if you are close by it is imperative not to panic, but to assist in calming, or calling the trained medical authorities. The NHS website has the current guide and instructions on what to do if someone near you has a seizure. Go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/what-to-do-if-someone-has-a-seizure-fit/
Epilepsy can be caused by any number of things. It is not just a condition from birth. Brain seizures can be inherited, brought on by a change in the genes, or caused by other conditions such as infectious diseases, strokes, or tumors.
Epileptic seizures happen when nerve cells in the brain send electric signals that get disrupted rather like a short-circuit in wiring. In previous years seizures were called ‘Fits’ but medical advances have made us recognize that is not a good description. People tend to be more enlightened these days.
There are many types of seizures, not all result in people falling, shaking, and twitching, or writhing, some people can just go vacant or blackout for a few seconds.
Facts: 1 in 20 people will have a once-only epileptic seizure in their lifetime.
1 in 50 people will have epilepsy during their life, but not necessarily for their lifetime.
Some 3% of Epileptics will also be affected by flashing lights, such as cameras or strobe lighting.
Research: An Epilepsy Society Brain and Tissue Bank has been started at the Institute of Neurology where tissue can be donated from sufferers and victims on their death to enable further scientific studies. Their goal is to help research into new treatments and cures, using tissue as an aid where necessary.
Treatments: Generally, the seizures can be helped with medication and other treatments. Some more severe sufferers might require surgery. Some young people may even outgrow the condition, and certain underlying conditions can be treated and have a good effect.
Certain medications of varying doses most are prescribed by the neurologist, such as the anti-seizure drugs valproic acid, carbamazepine, and ethosuximide.
Other treatments, such as Vagus Nerve stimulation where implants beneath the skin in the neck can be fitted to send electric impulses to the brain. Implants can also be fitted deeper into the brain itself which detect unusual events and generate electric pulses as stimulants or regulators.
Even a diet rich in fat and low on carbohydrates can assist in managing the occasion of seizures.
As a last resort, there is always brain surgery in areas where regular seizures have occurred.
Reports from the USA are now encouraging the use of a muscle stimulant given with an auto-injector, a tool rather like an Epipen to stop those longer seizures. The study has found that injecting an anticonvulsant drug directly into the thigh muscle has proved very effective, relaxing the patient enough to be seizure-free by the time they have been taken to the hospital for further treatment.
Healthy Alternatives or Supplements:
Vitamins: A study in 2016 found that some Epileptics were deficient in Vitamin E and that a Vitamin E supplement may be safe to take alongside their medication.
Vitamin B-6 is used in the treatment of a rare type of epilepsy known as pyridoxine-dependent seizures that can develop in the womb after birth. At the moment it is not known to be effective in other types of epilepsy.
Some of the medications used to treat epilepsy can also cause Vitamin D deficiency and doctors sometimes recommend extra vitamin D supplements to carefully manage the condition.
Natural treatments should always be separate options for epilepsy care. If you are an Epileptic always discuss the possibilities with your doctor before you try them. Always discuss your treatment with your neurologist, as using natural supplements could interfere with the effectiveness and risk more seizures.
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