Epileptic\ fits

Epileptic\ fits
Because the brain is so complex, epileptic fits take many forms, although each sufferer usually only experiences one type, or a limited number of types of fit. While over 40 different types of fit have been described, the main physical manifestations are:
Brief loss of awareness: Staring spells begins without warning, and only last for a few seconds. The child becomes unaware of his surroundings, the eyes are still, but there may be rhythmic blinking, rapid breathing or chewing movements. The child is unaware of the fit, and is not confused afterwards. Although these can occur many times a day, absence fits are often unnoticed by parents or teachers.
Children with absence fits may have difficulty in learning if the problem is not recognised and treated.
Mood changes: The sensory or emotional systems may be affected, causing a variety of symptoms. These can include tingling or numbness, seeing lights, hearing sounds, odd tastes or odd smells; and feeling emotions like fear, sadness, anger or even joy. It may be that a specific memory is triggered, or that there is a deja vu experience - that an event appears as a previous memory, even although it has only just happened. These symptoms are often called an aura.
Muscle spasms: A single muscle, or a group of muscles contracts, usually only for a second or so, causing part of the body to jerk or, if the contraction continues, to stiffen. The event may be repeated several times, or the convulsive movements may spread to other parts of the body.
Loss of muscle tone: In this case, a group of muscles relax, for example causing the child to fall. The arms or the body muscles, for example, may go limp. Obviously, this can cause physical harm, and children prone to drop attacks often have to wear protective headgear.
Loss of consciousness: Finally, there may be, complete loss of consciousness.
In a typical fit, various of these physical manifestations may be combined. Thus in a generalised tonic clonic fit, the child may emit a short cry, lose consciousness and fall to the floor; the muscles stiffen (tonic phase) and then the limbs jerk and twitch (clonic phase); bladder control may be lost. Consciousness is regained slowly, and afterwards the child may feel fatigue, confusion and disorientation. These final effects may last for a few minutes or several hours.
The pattern of fit depends on where in the brain the epileptic event starts, and how it propagates to other areas of the brain. In a simple fit pattern, the event only occurs in one area of the brain. In more complex patterns, like the one described above, it starts in one area of the brain and propagates to other areas.
While there is a wide variety of patterns of fit, most children who suffer from fits will experience the same pattern of fit on successive occasions, or at most a limited number of different patterns. The pattern of fits may also evolve with time.
The consequences to the child are not related to the physical violence of the fit. While violent fits may cause physical damage, most fits are not thought to further harm the brain. However, some of the minor manifestations, particularly minor tremors in babies a few months old may be an indicator of infantile spasms, a serious condition, which can cause serious damage to the brain, and needs to be treated as soon as possible. It is important to consult a doctor if you notice anything that might be a fit. It is better to be safe than sorry.

As indicated by the above description, the notion that people who have epileptic fits are dangerous or violent are uninformed. An epileptic might fall over and hurt himself, but he's really not likely to do harm to anyone else. (Wish I had known this when I was a child. Bobby T. tended to be shunned because he had epilepsy; other children were needlessly afraid of him. Of course, there's the part Bobby played in this himself - he made those of us who were smaller and younger think he might hurt us. As an adult, I recognize now that this might just have been a defense mechanism, but I didn't know it then.)

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