08 June 2018

Vital Signs: Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that results in what are known as ‘epileptic seizures’, of which there are more than forty kinds. It is also a physical condition, as it affects the body. Seizures present themselves as sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, and/or convulsions.

"More than half a million people in the UK have epilepsy" - Epilepsy Society 

Facts about seizures

  • Most seizures happen suddenly without warning, lasting only a short while, from a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Seizures are different for each sufferer.
  • Simply being aware that someone has epilepsy does not tell you what their epilepsy is like, or what type of seizures they have.
  • Some people have more than one type of seizure. Even if someone's seizures are unique, they usually follow the same pattern each time they occur.
  • Not all seizures involve convulsions. Some people seem vacant, wander around or are confused during a seizure.
  • Some people have seizures when they are awake, called 'awake seizures'. Others have seizures while they are asleep, called 'asleep seizures' (or ‘nocturnal seizures’). The names 'awake' and 'asleep' do not explain the type of seizures, just when they happen.
  • Injuries can happen during seizures, but many people do not hurt themselves.

Tonic-clonic or ‘convulsive’ seizures are the type of seizure that the majority of people commonly associate with epilepsy. A person experiencing a tonic-clonic seizure goes rigid, loses consciousness, falls to the floor and begins to convulse, otherwise known as ‘fitting.’

If you encounter someone suffering this particular kind of seizure,

Do

  • Stay calm
  • Cushion their head
  • Note the time the seizure starts
  • Cushion the head
  • Stay with them until they are fully recovered

Do not

  • Hold the person down
  • Put anything in their mouth
  • Attempt to rouse them

Be aware

While there is usually no need to call for an ambulance, there are certain instances when doing so is appropriate. These are:

  • If it’s the person’s first ever seizure.
  • The person having the seizure is fitting badly.
  • They are experiencing difficulty breathing after the seizure has stopped.
  • One seizure immediately follows another with no recovery in between.
  • The seizure lasts for more than two minutes longer than is usual for them.
  • The seizure lasts for more than five minutes and you aren’t sure how long their seizures usually last.

Source – Epilepsy Society