National Epilepsy Week
It's National Epilepsy Week. A week that aims to raise awareness of what epilepsy is, who’s affected and what can be done to help those who suffer from this condition.
What is epilepsy?
It's a neurological condition that affects the brain and causes recurring seizures or fits in people. An uncontrolled increase of excess electrical activity in the brain interfering with the normal functions, causes a short interruption to the relay of messages in the brain.
Approximately 500,000 people in England are diagnosed with epilepsy, affecting people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly.
Here at AAKSS, we occasionally attend some seizure or fitting patients, but these are only in the rare situation where fitting does not stop within a reasonable timescale, also known as ‘status epilepticus’.
It may be the case that the patient requires some strong medication or even sometimes a general anaesthetic to terminate the seizure.
These are low numbers for us, at only an average of about three patients a month - a small but essential part of the service we provide.
If a patient has a fit lasting longer than 30 minutes, this becomes a life-threatening emergency.
Patients have fits for several reasons, sometimes this can be after suffering a head injury, but the most common cause is epilepsy.
Witnessing someone having a fit can be very distressing, but some straightforward first aid measures will help the person and keep them safe.
There are two main types of seizure or fit:
The first type is Tonic-clonic (convulsive) seizures
Tonic-clonic seizures are the type of seizure most people recognise. They used to be called grand mal seizures.
Someone having a tonic-clonic seizure goes stiff, loses consciousness, falls to the floor and begins to jerk or convulse. They may go blue around the mouth due to irregular breathing. Sometimes they may lose control of their bladder or bowels, and bite their tongue or the inside of their mouth.
First aid for a tonic-clonic seizure:
- Protect them from injury (remove harmful objects from nearby)
- Cushion their head
- Look for an epilepsy identity card or identity jewellery – it may give you information about their seizures and what to do
- Time how long the jerking lasts
- Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position once the jerking has stopped
- Stay with them until they are fully recovered
- Be calmly reassuring
Not every epileptic patient having a seizure requires an ambulance. If the seizure only lasts a few minutes and the patient recovers normally, they will be able to tell you if they need further help. If the seizures last more than five minutes, you know that this is the first fit the patient has ever had, if they have injured themselves or if they do not recover within 10 minutes, call 999 for an ambulance.
Further first aid advice is available from St John Ambulance.
The second type of seizure are Focal seizures
You may also hear this type of seizure called a partial seizure. Someone having a focal seizure may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may have unusual movements and behaviour such as plucking at their clothes, smacking their lips, swallowing repeatedly or wandering around.
Here’s how to help if you see someone having a focal seizure:
- Guide them away from danger (such as roads or open water)
- Stay with them until recovery is complete
- Be calmly reassuring
- Explain anything that they may have missed
When caring for a patient having a fit or seizure never:
- Restrain their movements
- Put anything in their mouth
- Try to move them unless they are in danger
- Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
- Attempt to bring them round
Further advice and information can be found from two charities that provide support and guidance for epilepsy in the UK click here.