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Epilepsy Is Contagious ?

Dr Gem

15th Mar, 2016

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Many Saturdays ago, I was at a hair salon waiting my turn.  I decided to pass the time by chatting on my phone and watching the movie that was being aired on the salons TV. I really wasn’t paying attention to the movie though.  Studies have shown that watching some TV channels can reduce one’s IQ at the rate of 0.1 per hour (Just kidding).

In between chatting on my phone and glancing up to check the progress of the customer before me, a certain scene caught my attention. In this scene, the main character of the movie was hosting a house party.  Some of the guests were dancing to the music, others were drinking and chatting.

Suddenly, the host fell to the ground and began to shake violently and foam from the mouth. Chaos erupted amongst the party guests.  Some of them ran as far back as possible, but waited to watch the strange spectacle before them. A few of the host’s friends surrounded him, one tried to restrain him. He shoved a spoon into the host's mouth. Another friend shouted for them to leave him alone.  After the seizure stopped, they quickly rushed him to the hospital.

A couple of scenes after, they showed the host’s girlfriend at the hospital conversing with the attending Doctor. The conversation that took place goes something like this.

Girlfriend: Doctor, please what is the problem with him? How is he?

Doctor: He has epilepsy. He had a seizure but he is on admission now, we’ll just monitor him and discharge him.

(Girlfriend exclaims and puts both hands on her head.)

Girlfriend: Please, doctor, is it contagious?

Doctor: It isn’t usually contagious, except from the blood.

(Girlfriend exclaims again)

Girlfriend: Will he be okay?

Doctor: Oh sure. You see epilepsy is a disease of the blood, we’ll just give him some fluids to flush it out of his blood and he will be as good as new!

I still can’t remember my exact reaction to the Doctor’s last comment. I must have let out a squeal or something. If I wasn’t in a public place, I might have placed my hands on my head and shouted “Oh my Goodness!” before collapsing dramatically to the floor.

The other viewers were sympathetic to the main character’s plight. It seemed no one was aware of the magnitude of the false information the movie just portrayed. If anyone was aware, they didn’t show it. The media, unfortunately, has propagated false health myths, the above example just being one of many instances. Oh, I have many related stories to tell (like the movie about a man that needed dialysis for congestive heart failure) but that is fodder for another day.

First, what is epilepsy? Epilepsy is a group of long-term neurological disorders characterized by epileptic seizures. These seizures can vary from brief and nearly undetectable (like repetitive blinking) to long periods of vigorous shaking. Not all seizures are “grand mal”, or whole body convulsions. In epilepsy, seizures tend to recur, and have no immediate underlying cause.

 Occurence of a seizure doesn't automatically mean epilepsy.When seizures are due to a specific cause it is not epilepsy. In most cases, the cause is unknown, although some people develop epilepsy as the result of brain injury, stroke, brain cancer, and drug and alcohol misuse, among others. Epilepsy isn't as rare as some people think. Over 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy.

Some common myths about epilepsy and seizure in general include:

MYTH:  Put a spoon or metal object in a person’s mouth during a seizure to prevent them from swallowing or biting off their tongue. 

FACT: Someone having a seizure is not at risk of swallowing his or her tongue. NEVER place an object such as a spoon in the person's mouth, as it could break a tooth or injure the gums, and may block the airway.

 MYTH: Epilepsy is contagious.

 FACT: It is IMPOSSIBLE to "catch" epilepsy from someone who is having a seizure. It is not contagious.

MYTH: A seizure can be stopped by restraining the person.

FACT: Never restrain anyone during a seizure. You could injure him or her. Move the person away from anything that could harm them like any sharp objects or hard surfaces. The seizure will run its course and stop.

 

MYTH: Epilepsy is caused by supernatural forces.

FACT: Epilepsy is indeed a brain disorder, there is nothing supernatural going on. Seizures are not a result of demon possession or the effect of “Juju” or voodoo. The most appropriate place to take a person with epilepsy/ seizures to is the HOSPITAL to see a QUALIFIED DOCTOR for management.

MYTH: Epilepsy is a childhood disorder that is lifelong.

FACT: Epilepsy can begin at any time in a person's life. The elderly and young children have the highest rates of developing epilepsy. The types of epilepsy, including the most common causes and seizure types, can vary depending on the age group. Brain injury at any point in life can increase the risk of epilepsy, although the onset of seizures may begin months or years later.

Get more knowledge, stay tuned for more Myths and Facts on Epilepsy. Need to have a private chat with a Doctor? Log into our chat room today for a free consultation!

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