Epilepsy impacts one in 100 South Africans

EPILEPSY, also known as a seizure disorder, is a common condition that affects the brain and nervous system. It has been estimated that approximately one South African in 100 will suffer from epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.

Dr Stan Moloabi, executive healthcare manager at the Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) says: “Seizures may have many different causes and anyone could suffer one at some point in their lives. South Africans should keep this in mind before judging those who suffer a seizure or from epilepsy. “A seizure is a surge of electrical activity in the brain that affects how a person feels or acts for a time. It can take many different forms and can affect different people in diverse ways. Some seizures are mild - the person may just feel absent for a second or two and not even notice that they have had a seizure. In other, more major seizures, the individual may lose consciousness, their body may become rigid or stiff and they may make fast jerking movements.”

Some of the causes and risk factors for seizures include:

Genetic factors – epilepsy may be inherited.

Infections of the brain such as meningitis and encephalitis.

Tumours.

Aids and Aids-related neurological conditions.

Developmental neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy.

Chemical imbalances in the brain caused by conditions such as low blood sugar and diabetes.

Withdrawal from alcohol.

Use of certain street drugs.

Exposure to toxins, such as lead or carbon monoxide

Epilepsy is usually treated with the use of medicines known as anticonvulsants. In some cases treating the underlying medical condition that is causing the seizures may help to control the epilepsy.

Some steps that should be followed when responding to a person having a seizure:

Do your best to stay calm. Understanding what is taking place should help you to do this.

Try to prevent injury by ensuring that there is nothing nearby or within reach that could harm the person.

Keep yourself out of harm’s way if the individual is thrashing and writhing around vigorously. There is no need to try and restrain anyone who is having a seizure.

Call emergency services.

Do not put anything in the personand#039;s mouth.

Once the individual’s seizure has stopped place them in the recovery position. Turn the person’s head so any vomit can easily drain from their mouth and make sure they are breathing normally.

Do not give the person liquids, medication or food until they are fully alert.

Stay with the person until he or she recovers, which should be within five to 20 minutes. - Government Employees Medical Scheme

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