Awareness of epilepsy is a topic that we’re very passionate about here at National Epilepsy Training. Our range of epilepsy awareness training courses are designed to give people the information and tools they need to care for people with epilepsy full time or just be able to help in an emergency situation (common with teachers and coworkers who have colleagues that have epilepsy, for example).
There are a lot of mistruths about epilepsy that can be dangerous or lead to a misunderstanding, in this post we’re going to explore some of the most common facts and myths that we feel everyone should know.
When a person is having a seizure, many people’s instinct is to try and restrain them from flailing on the floor. However, this can potentially cause more harm than help. Most seizures will end in minutes or even seconds, the best thing you can do to help is remove any hazards from the surrounding area.
Another common mistruth is that a person having a seizure is in danger of swallowing their tongue. It’s this belief that leads to another incorrect belief that you should force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure to prevent them from doing so, which is more likely to cause damage to the jaw, gums or teeth.
There are approximately 50 million people with epilepsy worldwide and 600,000 of them are in the UK alone. Epilepsy can occur on its own or in conjunction with other conditions, such as cerebral palsy, alzeheimers and autism.
Epilepsy is actually a term that refers to a group of symptoms that point towards a diagnosis. It’s a neurological abnormality that results in seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy and it can vary in terms of severity. Each person’s experience of epilepsy is not the same. Anyone can develop epilepsy, but it’s not something that can be transmitted or caught. It can occur for a wide variety of causes, such as brain trauma or through other illnesses, such as Meningitis.
Although epilepsy is considered to be a disability. Many people with epilepsy lead entirely normal lives and are able to do all of the things someone without epilepsy can do, including holding down high pressure jobs, although a risk assessment may be required for some activities to ensure safety.
People with more frequent seizures may not be able to do some jobs (for example, the armed forces) and may not be able to drive, but the majority are able to control their seizures to a sufficient degree to prevent it from limiting their life.
There’s a common belief that seizures involve falling to the floor and convulsing. This is known as a tonic-clonic seizure. However, there are multiple different types of seizures and they can vary from person to person. In some cases, a person may appear to be awake but become unresponsive, such as a focal aware seizure. Understanding the different types of seizure is key to recognising when they’re happening.