Epilepsy: what it truly means and its misconceptions


The majority of us must have heard about epilepsy, in one way or another. Maybe we heard about it from a friend, a family member, medical staff or maybe from the internet. We know it’s an illness, but how does this “illness” affect people? And what does it mean for an epileptic person to live with this “disease”? The answers to these questions are both simple and complex to explain. So, let us discover more about this, shall we?

What are the causes? What about the symptoms?

Epilepsy is a pretty sly and tricky illness. You can be born with it, develop it after a serious injury or it can pop up suddenly in your life without any known background or cause. Most common causes are strokes, brain tumors, alcohol and drug abuse, head injury, infections such as meningitis or low oxygen levels during birth.

The biggest and most evident symptom of epilepsy are the seizures. They are sudden and short abnormalities caused by a small electrical “explosion” that happens between various brain-cells. These abnormalities include strange movements or lack of motion in the muscles (twitching, trembling, stiffness), feelings of confusion, fear, anxiety, blurry vision, dizziness and headaches. Seizures are sub-categorized in different classes, such as generalized and focal seizures. Generalized ones start from the both sides of the brain, while focal ones happen in only one area…and some of them are unknown, because the brain is so complex.

Besides seizures, headaches and dizziness, epileptic people have to deal with abnormal sensations (hearing, vision, feeling) and moods, many times experiencing strong yet confusing emotions. Epileptic people are more prone to various and dangerous psychological conditions, such as depression and chronic anxiety.

What can trigger an epileptic episode:

Epilepsy, yet again, it’s very sly. While some people are sensitive to flashing images and lights and can have a seizure because of them, others can have these seizures because of lack of sleep, stress, abuse of caffeine, alcohol and drugs. And most of the epileptic cases occur in children. It’s one of the most known neurological disorder.

You’d think that people with epilepsy are facing great obstacles and endure a huge burden, however, with the right treatment and a well-balanced life-style, people can live with this disorder normal lives. They need to do a control from time to time. With the electroencephalogram (EEG), doctors can monitor the brain activity and whenever there are some spikes in the EEG, precautions are needed.

Do epileptic people require special needs?

The vast majority, no, they are normal people, with normal lives. They just need to be a bit more careful, since seizures can occur anytime and it can be dangerous if it happens while driving or swimming. Epileptic people usually have normal behavior, intelligence and do not have learning disabilities. While it is true that there are possible complications, most people will not face major or threatening situations if the proper treatment is applied.

It’s a really common condition, and it is believed that 1 in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. Besides children, people after the age of 65 can also develop this disorder.

What should I do if I see someone having a seizure?

First of all, stay calm and do not panic. Do not let the person alone. If they are unconscious or unaware of their surroundings, move any harmful objects out of their way (desks, plants, etc.) and place them on their side to keep the airway free. Place something soft under their head and loosen any tight clothing. Call an ambulance, do not put anything in their mouth (pills, water or food), and do not restrain their movements, no matter what!


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