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Many of us do not expect to experience a seizure during our lifetime. But roughly 50 million people around the globe are at risk – because they have epilepsy. In fact, in Australia alone, 250 000 or 1% of our total population will develop epilepsy during our lifetime.
1 out of 10 people may have a seizure during his or her lifetime, but much fewer will be diagnosed with epilepsy. This means that seizures are very common and one day you may find yourself in a situation where you may need to help someone during or after a seizure.
What is a Seizure?
A seizure happens when there is an unusual electrical activity in a person’s brain, causing abnormal movements and behaviors. The risk of having seizure attacks increases if you have a previous encounter with stroke and brain injury. But not all people who experience a single seizure are considered to have epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition of the brain characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. It can happen to anyone regardless of age and it usually takes two or more seizure episodes to diagnose this condition. Epilepsy symptoms may vary from each person, but this includes temporary confusion, loss of consciousness or awareness, and involuntary twitching or stiffness in the body.
Epilepsy, like any other long-term health conditions such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes, comes with certain risks. These risks are considerably higher for people who have poorly controlled seizures. It can sometimes lead to injuries or falls and can even lead to death. Good seizure control is recommended in reducing seizure-related risk and injuries.
Risk-level often depends on what type of seizures a person has. Seizures can vary and the best way to help someone is to first determine what type of seizure they have then found out the specific steps for responding to different seizure types.
Types of Seizures
Seizures or epileptic seizures can be divided into two main classes: focal seizures and generalised seizures.
Focal (onset) seizures, also called partial seizures, occur when the abnormal electrical activity remains in a limited area of the brain. It starts in one area and can spread across the brain that may cause mild or severe symptoms, or worse, can cause tonic-clonic seizures. Focal onset seizures are important to treat right away since they can result in respiratory problems and injuries.
While Generalised (onset) seizures are surges of abnormal nerve discharges throughout the cortex area of the brain. This condition is often caused by an imbalance in the inhibitory and excitatory circuits in the brain’s electrical activity. Genetics, underlying health conditions, and poor lifestyle habits can increase the risk of having generalised-onset seizures.
A seizure does not usually require emergency medical attention and can stop on their own. However, if you are unsure whether a seizure is critical or not, you might want to think about when to call an ambulance.
Call Triple Zero (000) IF:
- The person has never had a seizure before (first-time seizures)
- Breathing difficulties before/after the seizure
- Seizures lasting more than 5 minutes
- Multiple seizures
- The person is hurt during the seizure (casualty suffers serious injury)
- The seizure happens in special conditions (water, wheelchair, etc.)
- The person has an underlying health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or is pregnant
What to do if someone is having a seizure?
According to The First Aid Course Melbourne, If the casualty is unconscious with strange or absent hearing, start CPR. There are 4 simple steps for Seizure First Aid…
- Keep the casualty safe by removing hazards and potential dangers
- Protect their head with cushioning, or anything soft.
- Lay the casualty on the side and perform CPR if necessary.
- If the person is conscious, reassure them until the emergency medical services arrive.
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