Every year, during the month of November, we come together and recognize National Epilepsy Awareness Month. It is estimated that over 3 million people in the United States live with Epilepsy. It is a condition that affects one’s brain and causes one to have seizures throughout their lives.
Whether you or any loved one have Epilepsy or are simply passionate about advocating about the same, you can get involved and help those with the condition. The National Epilepsy Awareness Month encourages everyone to educate themselves and others around them, spread awareness and get involved every year. There are a few opportunities for those with Epilepsy and their loved ones to educate, advocate, and spread awareness.
National Epilepsy Awareness Month occurs every year during November in the United States. Congress recognized the month formally in 2003. However, the Epilepsy Foundation recognized the significance of this month for many years previously.
Awareness and education of Epilepsy help bring more and more attention to the condition, its diagnostic capabilities, treatment, and prevention. While there are many causes of Epilepsy, almost half of all the current cases are idiopathic. This means the source of the condition is still unknown to the person. This also means that the proper treatment method can be somewhat tricky to find as well.
National Epilepsy Awareness Month provides us all with an opportunity to educate ourselves and others around us about this neurological condition. The month of awareness and recognition also helps benefit the entire epilepsy community as well.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain condition causing people to have seizures. It affects both adults and children across all demographics. It is also one of the most common disorders impacting one’s nervous system.
Seizures are the direct and primary symptom of Epilepsy. They can be caused due to interruptions in the standard brain signals. Our brain consists of nerve cells that communicate with one another through electrical impulses and activities. Seizures can occur when one or more parts of our brain burst into abnormal electrical signals that can interrupt the otherwise normal brain signals. Anything that interrupts the connection between nerve cells in our brain can cause seizures. This can include high fever, surge or drop in blood sugar levels, or even a brain concussion. When a child has over two seizures without a cause, it is diagnosed as Epilepsy.
Symptoms of a seizure can be different for different people. These symptoms include - blank staring, stiffening of the body, jerks in the movement of legs and arms, loss of consciousness, loss of awareness, nodding head rhythmically, rapid eye blinking periods, staring.
During a seizure, the lips of a child can also become tinted blue, and their breathing may or may not be normal. After their seizure episode, it is very common for children to have a confused state of mind and be sleepy.
If you come across someone having a seizure, here are a few things you can do to help them:
1. Help that person down in a safer position. Turn them over to their side and cushion their head.
2. Do not hold them down.
3. Do not force anything inside their mouth.
4. Comfort the person by remaining calm and speaking to them calmly.
5. Ensure the person is wearing a medical bracelet or has any emergency information available with them. Preferably stay with them until they are alert and awake again.
6. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, call 911.
7. Even if the seizure does not last longer than five minutes and the person does not return to normalcy, call 911.
8. If they are fine, offer to call their loved ones or coordinate a ride with them and help them reach home safely.
How can Epilepsy be diagnosed?
Doctors can use various methods and tests to determine what kind of Epilepsy one might have. These can include:
Doctors will check if you have any physical problems apart from seizures. They will also test the patient’s motor skills.
Since Epilepsy is usually inherited, doctors would want to check out the patient’s medical history and family history.
Doctors will test markers that can be related to seizures. Examples of this can include inflammatory markers, low blood sugar, etc.
Your healthcare provider will also test your speech, memory, and cognitive abilities. This will help them determine where precisely the seizures are happening in the patient’s brain. This will also help them determine any other associated problems.
An Electroencephalogram, also simply termed EEG, helps measure a person’s brain’s electrical activities to help identify where exactly the seizures are happening. It helps them determine whether it is a focal onset or a generalized onset.
Imaging tests help a healthcare provider check for any structural abnormalities or any lesions that could cause seizures. Examples include a Computerized Tomography Scan, or simply a CT scan, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also simply called an MRI.
While we are recognizing National Epilepsy Awareness Month, we should know that Epilepsy can be prevented in multiple cases. Here are some of the most common ways to prevent Epilepsy or reduce the chances of ever developing the condition:
Prevent any traumatic brain injuries
Brain injuries, also known as traumatic brain injuries, can be a frequent cause of the condition. One should always protect themselves to prevent such traumatic brain injuries. .
1. Ride your bike/bicycle safely.
2. Ensure the use of safety belts for passenger seats, child passenger seat belts, airbags, helmets to reduce the risk of motor vehicle/traffic-based injuries.
3. Walk down or up the steps carefully. Falls are the primary cause of brain injuries. Adults and children both have equal chances of developing brain injuries because of falls.
4. Get immediate help for any traumatic event or injury experienced. The chances of Epilepsy get high with severe brain injuries. Taking good care of injuries can help avoid Epilepsy.
5. Lower your chances of strokes and heart diseases. Ensure you are eating well, exercising, and not smoking. All of these actions can help prevent Epilepsy later on in life.
6. Get vaccinated. Protect yourself and your loved ones from diseases. Immunizations help lower the risk of getting infected, which directly lowers your risk of developing Epilepsy. Here are a few vaccinations and immunizations that you should be looking forward to preventing Epilepsy altogether.
7. Wash hands and prepare food safely. Infections like cysticercosis are the most common causes of Epilepsy globally. It is caused due to parasites and can only be prevented by keeping good hygiene and a safe food environment and practices. Health screenings and early treatment for cysticercosis help prevent Epilepsy.
8. Staying healthy during pregnancy. Usually, problems during pregnancy and childbirth can lead to Epilepsy. One should follow a good and regular prenatal care plan provided by their healthcare professional to keep oneself and their baby healthy.
The most significant part of the National Epilepsy Awareness Month is to encourage those with Epilepsy to come forward and share their experiences, stories, and any challenges they meet with. The month looks forward to bringing people closer together, so they have a platform to share their journey. You can help raise awareness about the National Epilepsy Awareness Month by using #RemoveTheFilter in your social media posts. You can also use #SeizureFirstAid to spread awareness and knowledge about Epilepsy.
Other ideas to raise awareness include:
- Wearing a purple ribbon on your outfits.
- Planting purple flowers.
- Drawing images and writing messages in purple chalk.
- Creating posters and flyers to educate others about the condition.
- Helping raise money to make donations.
- Volunteering to be an Epilepsy ambassador.
November is recognized as the National Epilepsy Awareness Month. There are plenty of ways and opportunities to get involved and help educate yourself, your loved ones, and others around you. You can get involved virtually or in-person to do so. Education and donation are the pillars to improve the lives of people with Epilepsy, and of course, a little compassion and patience.
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