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Frequently Asked Questions On Epilepsy

DEFINITION:

Q: What is the difference between “Fits” and “Epilepsy”?

A: Epilepsy is simply defined as a condition in which the patient is prone to get epileptic “seizures” or “fits”. Anyone having two or more unprovoked fits or seizures can be said to have Epilepsy. Epilepsy clearly is not a homogenous entity, but may vary widely in its forms, causation and severity.

An epileptic fit or seizure is caused by brief, excessive and abnormal discharge of nerve cells in the brain. It is something like a small “electrical storm” or ‘short circuiting” in the brain. The abnormal discharge of electrical activity may involve a small part of the brain or even the whole brain itself. The symptoms of an epileptic fit depend upon the part of the brain that is activated by abnormal electrical discharges and it results in an abnormal movement, sensation, thought process and even unconsciousness. This explains the variation in the clinical types of seizures that can occur in different individuals.

Q: Does a person who gets only a single fit have epilepsy?

A: No. Epilepsy means that the person has recurrent (more than one) fits. A single fit in a person does not mean that he/she has epilepsy. It is estimated that majority of people who have had an isolated, single fit will never have another one. On the other hand, persons who are destined to develop epilepsy will have the second fit after a variable interval, usually within one year of the first fit.

Next» INCIDENCE

Myths & Facts

Myth
Epilepsy is due to the effect of "evil spirits" or "supernatural powers". It is also a form of "madness". So, epilepsy should be treated by faith-healers, sorcerers (witch-craft) or in a
lunatic asylum.

Fact
Epilepsy is a disease of the brain. Hence, epilepsy should be treated by neurologists, epileptologists, physicians and paediatricians.


Myth
One should never touch a patient having a seizure in order to avoid the disease being passed on to you.

Fact
If a patient is having a seizure, he/she needs your help and care. Epilepsy cannot be passed on to others by touching the patient.


Myth
An epileptic seizure can be terminated by putting a key in the patient's hand or by making a patient smell onions or a dirty shoe.

Fact
None of these non-medical measures are of any use. Family members and teachers should be made aware of first-aid measures required during a seizure.


Myth
Children with epilepsy are dull and cannot learn. They should not be sent to school.

Fact
Children with epilepsy can be extremely intelligent. It is usually ignorance about various aspects of epilepsy that prevents parents from sending their children to school. Many times the teachers also have misconceptions and do not encourage children with epilepsy to attend school.


Myth
Treatment for epilepsy with modern medicines is ineffective and expensive.

Fact
"Seizures" or "fits" that occur in epilepsy can be completely controlled by using a single, inexpensive medicine in 60-70% patients. Another 15-20% patients can be helped by the use of new, but slightly expensive drugs. A few cases can be successfully treated with surgery. Epilepsy can even be cured in some cases.
A person under Seizure

No Seizures & No Fits