Epilepsy: Facts and Myths

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Epilepsy is a condition in which a person has recurrent seizures due to a chronic, underlying process. A seizure is a paroxysmal event due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. This abnormal brain activity can have various manifestations, ranging from dramatic convulsive activity to experiential phenomena not readily discernible by an observer.

That is the first fact that isn’t typically known by the general public. A seizure doesn’t always mean dramatic convulsion. There are a lot of different kinds of seizures. The nature of seizures varies because different lobes of the brain control different behaviors, movements, and experiences.

However, that is not to say that the classic image of a person jerking their body uncontrollably doesn’t happen. It can, and another popularly held belief is that putting a spoon in the mouth of a person having a convulsion will help. Do not put anything inside the mouth of a person going through a convulsion. Jaw and face muscles may tighten during a convulsion, causing the person to bite down. If something is inside their mouth when this happens, the person may break and swallow the object or break their teeth. Instead, make sure that the person doesn’t have anything blocking their airway and is in a safe environment.

Another misconception is that epilepsy is a communicable disease. Epilepsy is not infectious, it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person. This misconception can actually be dangerous, because it can be an obstacle to the care and rehabilitation of epileptics, or prevent someone from helping a person with epilepsy.

The belief that people with epilepsy can’t work also still exists. This is not true, as people with epilepsy can be found in all sorts of professions. However, it should be noted that epilepsy is a wide spectrum, and people with epilepsy who work have controlled seizures that won’t prevent them from doing their job properly.

Our knowledge can actually affect people and how they’re perceived. Which is why we have to be critical and make sure that we take responsibility for our knowledge and what we hold as a belief.

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References

Kasper, D. L., Fauci, A. S., Hauser, S. L., Longo, D. L. 1., Jameson, J. L., & Loscalzo, J. (2015). Harrison’s principles of internal medicine (19th edition.). New York: McGraw Hill Education.

Awaritefe A. Epilepsy: the myth of a contagious disease. Culture, medicine and psychiatry. Dec 1;13(4):449-56.

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