On February 12 of each year, the world celebrates World Epilepsy Day, a day that aims to raise awareness about this neurological condition that affects millions of people around the world. This initiative, created by the International Office of Epilepsy (OIE) and the International League Against Epilepsy (Ilae), seeks to eliminate the stigma associated with this condition, educate the community and encourage support for those with epilepsy. Many affected people face stigma and discrimination due to a lack of public knowledge about the condition.
About 50 million people suffer from it, according to the World Health Organization, making it one of the most common neurological diseases in the world.
What it is and how it affects people
Its symptoms can vary greatly, from short periods of absence to more severe attacks; This diversity highlights the complexity of this condition.
Seizures are caused by excessive electrical discharge in a group of brain cells. These range from short periods of attention or muscle spasms to more severe and long-lasting seizures. The frequency of attacks can also range from less than one attack per year to several attacks per day.
Having a seizure does not necessarily mean having epilepsy; Up to 10% of people will have at least one seizure in their lifetime, while epilepsy is the presence of two or more unprovoked seizures. Although the causes of the disease are varied or unknown, in about 50 percent of cases it is important to understand that sporadic seizure episodes do not always indicate the presence of epilepsy.
Some reasons are:
Brain damage resulting from prenatal and perinatal causes (loss of oxygen or trauma during birth, low birth weight);
Congenital malformations or genetic conditions associated with brain malformations;
Serious head injuries.
Stroke that limits the amount of oxygen reaching the brain.
Brain infections such as meningitis, encephalitis or neurocysticercosis.
How is epilepsy treated?
Treatment usually involves taking medications to help control seizures. In more complex cases, surgery or implantable medical devices may be considered as options.
New technologies have become available in recent years, such as the use of robotic surgery in laser ablation therapy, prolonged seizure monitoring for several months, or deep brain stimulation. In the coming years, major advances in neuroimaging diagnosis of cortical dysplasia and other diseases that cause epilepsy are expected, thanks to MRI technology. The implementation of chronic electrodes and the development of “closed-loop” monitoring systems, combined with analysis using big data, will allow crises to be identified at their onset.
One future goal of scientific progress is to find the genes that cause complex cases of epilepsy, which are often resistant to conventional treatments. Finding these genes would help determine the specific and personalized treatment each epilepsy patient needs.
How to help with an epileptic seizure
Stay calm, and remember that most epileptic seizures are short-lived and do not usually represent a long-term danger;
Protect the person by helping him lie on the ground to avoid injuries caused by falling. Place something soft under your head to prevent injury.
Removal of dangerous objects: Remove any nearby objects that could cause harm during the seizure;
Do not restrain the person during a seizure because once it starts, it is virtually impossible to stop a seizure. You should not try to prevent it by shouting, moving it, shaking it, or smelling a strong perfume;
Lay the person on his side to facilitate breathing and stay with him until he regains full consciousness;
Monitor duration: If a seizure lasts more than five minutes or if multiple seizures occur without the person regaining consciousness, medical help should be sought immediately.