Guide to Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that results in what is 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 types 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 from this particular kind of seizure, do:
Cushion their head
Note the time the seizure starts
Stay with them until they are fully recovered
Hold the person down
Put anything in their mouth
Attempt to rouse them
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
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