Epilepsy is a medical condition that originates in the brain and causes recurring seizures. Having a seizure can put you at risk of head injury and other complications, so it’s important to be mindful of safe practices at home and in the outside world. Integrating good practices into your life will enable you to have the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else.
Treating an Epileptic Seizure
1Learn to recognize seizure symptoms. Signs of a seizure can differ in patients and in the way the episodes unfold. The most common types of seizures include convulsions and loss of consciousness. Other symptoms might include arms and legs jerking, mouth trembling or a blank gaze.
- Seizures are generally categorized as either partial or primary generalized. Identification is based on cause and point of origination.
- Partial seizures or simple focal seizures begin in one section rather than the entire brain. Often, the person is aware of what is happening to them.
- Complex focal seizures affect a larger part of the brain. The person might be confused and have difficulty understanding what’s happening to them.
- Secondary generalized seizures begin as focal and spread to both sides of the brain. The person loses consciousness and convulses.
- Generalized seizures can come on quickly. Both sides of the brain are affected. Seizures are accompanied by unconsciousness, convulsions, rigidity of muscle and jerky movements.
2Make a seizure response plan. Carry the plan with you at all times. You can print out the form and fill it in. You can also use a small notebook for the plan if you like. A Seizure First Aid app for your smartphone is available.
- Include the names and numbers of your doctors, pharmacies and two emergency contacts.
- Describe the types of seizures and how they’re manifested. Include their length and how often they occur. Note triggers for the seizure.
- Provide a first aid plan for treatment. Include how long someone should stay with you, keeping the mouth clear and other details specific to you.
- List medications, including amounts, when they’re taken and how they’re administered. Refer to other treatments you receive such as VNS.
- Stipulate when emergency services should be called. Be specific in describing the circumstances such as a seizure that lasts more than five minutes.
3Apply first aid to the person undergoing a seizure. The primary focus of epilepsy treatment during a seizure is to make sure the person doesn’t get injured. In most cases all that’s required is making the person safe and offering comfort.
- Reassure the person and stay with them until you’re absolutely certain that the seizure has stopped.
- Stay calm. It will help the person having the seizure to stay calm. It will also help others on the scene not to panic.
- Help the person to be comfortable. Help them to sit or lie down. Provide a pillow to protect their head.
4Protect the person suffering from seizure from accident. A person suffering a seizure is unable, to some degree, to control their body. Falling or thrashing movements are fairly common. The setting in which they’re having a seizure should be quickly appraised for potential dangers. Minimize the harm a seizure victim can do to themselves.
- Move dangerous objects away from the person having the seizure.
- Steer the person away from potential dangers such as a street or a hot stove. Lead them as gently as possible to a safe area.
- Don’t forcibly restrain a person having a seizure. It could lead to injury.
- Don’t place anything in the person’s mouth while the seizure is in progress. It may lead to broken teeth. They may choke on the object.
- Help the person to breath properly. You may need to turn them on their side with the mouth pointed downward to prevent choking.
5Call emergency services if necessary. Although in most cases the help you offer is to protect the person suffering a seizure from hurting themselves, there are some situations that will require you to call for medical help.
- If you’re in a public place, have someone else call while you stay with the person who is having the seizure.
- Call for help if it’s the first time the victim has had a seizure or if the cause of the seizure isn’t known.
- Call emergency services if the seizures are repeating rather than stopping.
- If the seizure continues for 5 minutes or more, call emergency services.
- If the seizure victim is unconscious for 10 minutes or more, call emergency services.
- Call for emergency help if the person undergoing the seizure requests that you do.
Managing Epilepsy Medically
1Talk to your doctor about how you’ll treat your epilepsy. Usually, medication will be tried first to lower the occurrences of seizures. Selecting the most effective anti-seizure medication might take time and experimentation. In many cases, once the right medication is found it can be quite effective. Some patients are able to stop taking the medication eventually with no further epileptic episodes.
- There are many types of epilepsy (over 40) and seizures. There are numerous drugs designed to treat epilepsy and prevent seizures.
- Your doctor will diagnose your type of epilepsy and treatment options will follow.
- Antiepileptic drugs are quite successful in preventing seizures as long as they’re taken as prescribed. About fifty percent of patients are able to control their epilepsy over long periods of time.
- Take your medication regularly. Make it a routine that’s so consistent the chances of forgetting to take medication are nil.
- Speak to your doctor about identifying triggers, like fatigue, that signal an oncoming seizure.
2Consider Vagus Nerve Stimulation. VNS sends continuous short electrical impulses to the brain through the vagus nerve in the neck. This method can be an alternative if other treatments aren’t working.
- A battery is implanted under the skin and is the source of the charge.
- The doctor will program the battery to deliver an electric impulse every few minutes.
- The patient will wear a magnet on a wrist band or on the belt and has the ability to produce extra electric stimulation if needed by waving the magnet over the implant.
- Patients self-administer the electric stimulation when they feel a seizure coming on.
- In some cases VNS is effective in eliminating or reducing seizures. In others, it’s ineffective.
3Change your diet. A ketogenic diet can help to reduce the occurrence of seizures.Ketogenic diets are sometimes recommended for children when medications aren’t successful.
- Ketogenic diets are low in carbohydrates and high in fat content. The body breaks down fat for energy (instead of carbohydrates).
- Ketogenic diets require the dieter receive close supervision to ensure they receive proper nutrition. Side effects from the diet also have to be monitored.
4Talk to your doctor about surgical options. In some cases an underlying condition of the brain is responsible for seizures. Under the right circumstances, surgery can successfully remove areas of the brain responsible for producing seizures.
- If seizures begin in the same area of the brain, surgery might be a successful option.
- If the area of the brain can be removed without doing harm to key functions, such as speech or eyesight, then surgery is an option.
- Surgery is specialized and complicated and requires tests that may take weeks to be completed.
- Electrodes may have to be implanted in the brain prior to the surgery to find the source of the seizures since the source will be removed.
- If no further seizures occur after surgery, the patient has a good chance to live seizure free.
- In some cases, surgery is not effective.