Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
"There were two friends who were walking down the road. One friend gets a seizure, In this seizure, he twisted his arm, which is a very common phenomenon. Now the friend who was ignorant about seizures said, 'oh my God, his arm is twisted'. So in that unconsciousness, he untwisted his arm forcefully and displaced his shoulder joint. Because he had no idea what seizure is or what is epilepsy ,he caused more severe damage to his shoulder which is forever now."Prof Vinay Goyal, Director, Neurology, Institute of Neurosciences, Medanta Hospital
But the good news is that, according to the World Health Organisation, 70 percent of the people with epilepsy can live a seizure free life if diagnosed and treated properly, on time.
Prof Vinay Goyal, Director, Neurology, Institute of Neurosciences, Medanta Hospital, gives us the run down on epilepsy, what causes it, and how it can be managed.
If you have a seizure, does that mean you have epilepsy?
Dr Goyal: A single seizure does not mean it is epilepsy. Epilepsy means when you have two or more unprovoked seizures. then you call it epilepsy.
One person had one seizure and after a few days again had another seizure and there is no precipitant, then we call it epilepsy.
So, all the seizures are not epilepsy. I'll give you another example—sometimes there is low sodium in the body and that causes seizures. We don't call it epilepsy.
We call it a situation related seizure.
Is epilepsy passed on genetically?
Dr Goyal: If we look at the common causes in children, we have to divide them (by age).
In newborns and within the first year the common cause is electrolyte imbalance, fever, infections. these are common causes which are usually not inherited.
After that, there are some syndromes that are inherited. This is a very small percentage of children
Only ten to fifteen percent are children who have seizures that are inherited.
What causes epilepsy?
Dr Goyal: A Common cause is Neurocysticercosis, which is an acquired infection of the brain.
There is a small insect (parasites) that comes from what you eat, especially raw vegetables. It goes in your stomach, and when it reaches the brain it causes seizures.
This is called Neurocysticercosis. This is a very common thing in children.
CNS infections like Bacterial meningitis, tubercular meningitis, encephalitis are other common causes for seizures in children.
Again, they are non-inherited. Inherited types include Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and some epileptic syndromes which are very uncommon.
At what age does epilepsy typically show up?
"You can have seizures from at the time of birth till you are alive."
Dr Goyal: No age is practically spared. Children and the elderly (above 55 or 60 years) have a higher chance of having seizures.
What are some early signs of epilepsy to look out for in kids?
Dr Goyal: If I talk about small children like one year, or two years olds, sometimes, very subtle symptoms can be signs of seizures.
Child may be irritable
Child is not feeling well
Child is not thriving well
Child is vomiting
Child is looking abnormally to one side
Child is not giving attention
These are very subtle things that could be seizures that parents may not be aware of it.
For children who are two or three years of age, I would say, if you find anything new which is not something you usually see in children, then you should talk to your doctor and explain what is happening.
Pro Tip: Take a Video for a More Accurate Diagnosis
Whenever you see something like this, please video record that event.
Because the event which you will go and explain to your doctor will be a different understanding than if you show the same video to the doctor.
"When recording the video, don't focus on the face, stay three to four feet away from the child and record."
Ensure the child is safe. If you show this video to any of your treating doctors.
It will help him a great deal in deciding, first, if it's epilepsy or not. If it is epilepsy, then what kind of epilepsy.
What should you do (And not do) when someone is having a seizure?
Dr Goyal: Don't put anything in the mouth.
Do not put your finger. If there are two seizures, the child will bite your finger and it will cause serious injury.
Don't put any hard objects in the mouth, because they may break their teeth.
Don't give them water because likely it will go into the lungs and cause serious pneumonia.
Ensure the person is breathing normally. Breathing is good enough.
Whether he's breathing slowly or rapidly, it's okay. If required, you can hold their hands and legs and turn them by ninety degrees.
When you turn them ninety degrees, the saliva from the mouth will drool outside which is good enough.
Most seizures last 2 minutes, and within two minutes, the child will stop throwing the abnormal movements
Withing two to five minutes, the child will gain consciousness.
"Don't Panic. When you panic, you cause more damage."
Treating and managing epilepsy
Dr Goyal: Practically, every epilepsy is treatable. 70 percent of epilepsy can be treated with just one or two drugs. Another 10 to 15 percent of epilepsy can be treated with more drugs. And some of them may require surgery.
The lifestyle modifications include,
Do not drive
If you are on medication, no Swimming, or adventurous sports.
Eat on time
Sleep on time
Sleep is a very important factor for the prevention of seizures, especially if you're on medication it becomes even more paramount.
If you're not on medication and in the past you had epilepsy, your sleep you have to always take care of.
Say you have to attend a party at night then sleep for two hours in the evening so that you'll cover that time. Your sleep will be better and you'll likely be safe.