Can epilepsy live a normal life?

Imagine walking around the small shop on the corner of the neighbourhood to run errands and then saw an unconscious person lying down with her body shaking on the ground. The human instinct of curiosity will first lead you to think what is happening and you may be finding to term that it could be a sign of seizures. In those brief moments, to feel panic is totally normal but the best way to deal with this is to provide aid. First, make the person in a safe environment which includes cushioning their head from constant banging on the ground and away from objects nearby. Next, you should stay with the person until they are fully awake and alert. To make sure they are really awake and alert is simply by asking “are you alright” and “where you are now”. Such questions can help you understand the severity of the seizures and to decide if you need to call for medical assistance. You should definitely ask for help and medical assistance if the seizures last more than 5 minutes or the person does not seem to gain a sense of consciousness.

Epilepsy is defined as sudden uncontrolled movement and changes in behaviour that is caused by the abnormal activity in the brain causing 2 or more unprovoked seizures. Seizures and epilepsy may be seen as the same thing but it is not entirely true. Seizures are single occurrence and even if it is caused by the changes in the brain activity, it may actually be caused by other conditions not relating to the brain such as extreme low blood sugar, alcohol withdrawal and heart conditions. Antiepileptic medication such as Keppra 500 mg is important to help control epilepsy.

Although many underlying diseases have been linked to epilepsy, the exact cause of the disease is still unknown. Geneticity is said to be one of the reasons a person could be having epilepsy as 1 in 3 people with epilepsy does have family members diagnosed with epilepsy. Damages to the brain such as stroke, brain tumour, severe head injury, drug abuse, excessive alcohol, brain infection such as meningitis or encephalitis, congenital abnormalities or genetic conditions associated with brain malformations and lack of oxygen during birth can be contributor to epilepsy.

Possible symptoms include losing consciousness, staring blankly into space, uncontrollable jerking and shaking known as a “fit”, stiff body, strange sensations including vision, hearing or taste and tingling feeling in arms or legs. Characteristics of seizures depend on the location of the affected brain region where the disturbance initially starts and the way it spreads. Epilepsy where the seizures begin from both sides of the brain simultaneously is known as primary generalised epilepsy. Partial seizures or known as focal seizures affect a single brain area and are associated with epilepsy.

Epilepsy can be controlled with medications. Anti-epileptic drugs are usually the main treatment. There are many kinds of anti-epileptic drugs and it usually depends on the type of the seizures. 2 out of 3 people with seizures find that antiepileptic drugs work to reduce the severity and frequency of the symptoms. In some cases, surgery can help remove part of the brain that causes the seizures. Some doctors may recommend vagus nerve stimulation therapy to treat epilepsy. This therapy involves implantation of a device under the skin on the chest area and works by sending regular mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via vagus nerve. Beside medical intervention, there are natural ways of treating epilepsy such as ketogenic diet and relaxation technique from qualified practitioners.

Patients with epilepsy often wonder and ask if they may actually live a normal life. If you are one of the people affected by the disease, you should know that you can live a normal life even if you are diagnosed with epilepsy. Self-management is the best way to take care of yourself. It is important to know how to manage the condition so that you can have a fulfilling life. This includes taking medication regularly, have discussion with healthcare professional if there is something wrong with medication or the way you have been lately, learn to identify seizure triggers such as flashing or bright light and to avoid it, exercise regularly with safety in mind, always get enough rest or sleep and to learn how to keep stress low.  You should also keep your mind open for conversation with friends and family or loved ones for support. Keeping a record of the pattern of seizure and what you have been doing the whole day can give clues on the characteristics of the seizures and to evaluate for improvement. However, it is worth noting that patients with epilepsy for a long time or difficult to control will have a risk for the need of other assistance in daily life activities. This will make it hard for them to get a job and be independent.

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