The first time I heard the word “seizure” I was in third grade. I was sitting in class learning how to write letters in cursive when suddenly there was a BANG from the classroom next door. Adults were running frantically in the halls. I heard teachers whispering to each other as they ran by—It’s Brad, it’s a seizure. Hurry! At the time I had no idea what that was; all I can remember is the students in his class saying how Brad suddenly started shaking, hit his head on the desk a couple of times and fell to the floor. As a child, I couldn’t full take in what was happening. I was so worried about my friend and did not know what to do. Teachers announced that Brad would be okay in an attempt to calm the mass of frantic third-graders swarming them with questions.
Soon after, people started using another word that I had never heard of and knew nothing about—epilepsy. Students everywhere were talking about Brad—that he might be epileptic and the doctors were watching him. Still my friend seemed perfectly fine to me and fortunately for him that was the only time he had a seizure.
Since that day I rarely heard the word “epilepsy” until high school. My new friend Mike was epileptic and I still was not 100% sure exactly what epilepsy was. I always viewed Mike as a normal healthy kid. He was an athlete, didn’t go to the nurses often, nothing seemed wrong with him to me at the time. Until the day I witnessed him have a seizure in a history class we had together. It was not like the seizure from the one in third-grade; I almost didn’t even notice he was having a seizure. His face was blank and expressionless, but then you realized he wasn’t just zoning out. Though teachers and friends knew of his condition, no one really noticed until the end of class when the seizure had all but ended. Obviously he left school for the Hospital, and is now on medication that can help manage his condition.
I learned a lot more about Mike’s condition and life after we became closer friends. That instance in high school was only one of the many seizures he had experienced. Over the years his physicians have been able to help manage his symptoms with medication and the amount of seizures has gone down. Mike continues to live a perfecting normal life and is attending school.
Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide and 2.2 million Americans. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. In less than scientific words, a seizure occurs when overactive brain cells overreact at the same time. The excitement produces Neuro-electric activity that affects parts or all of the brain. The affected parts become damaged, and can’t perform normal functions. This erratic malfunctioning causes people to experience sudden changes in movement, sensation, awareness and behavior. A seizure can last from a few seconds to minutes.
What defines epilepsy though? Epilepsy is the condition of having continuous spontaneous seizures occurring, having two or three more seizures, or having one seizure with a high chance of having another seizure. Seizures due to head trauma or other traumatic injuries are often mistaken for epilepsy; however these traumatic experiences are not known to cause epilepsy.
Research suggests epilepsy is genetically inherited; however, the definitive cause of the condition often remains a mystery. Physicians have identified markers that act as red flags in diagnosing this condition including: abnormal EEG results, having a history of a pervious seizure or seizures, other neurological impairments and a factor of age, specifically if you are elderly.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) is a test that measures the electrical activity in the brain. The way an EEG measures electrical activity is through the use of special sensors that are place on a person’s head and the sensors have wires that are hooked up to a computer to record the results. Based on the influence of each of the factors, the physician makes the decision whether treatment is need or what direction they plan to go in for treatment. A common treatment for epilepsy is prescribing regular use of seizure prevention medication. If the medication route is non-effective then the physician may considers trying other methods such as surgery, a special diet, complementary therapy or vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Vagus nerve stimulation is a small device that is implanted under a person’s skin near their collarbone. The device has a wire that connects it to the vagus nerve in the neck and the device is programmed to produce weak electrical signals that travel to the brain in regular intervals, which help prevent electrical burst from occurring.
This is not a condition that gets worse over time and is possible to live with.