In a recent interview with Glamour magazine, actress Brooke Shields shared her experience of having a full-blown seizure. She described how she was "frothing at the mouth, totally blue, trying to swallow my tongue." Shields' openness about her seizure helps to challenge the negative stigma and misconceptions surrounding seizures and epilepsy. It is an issue that has been misunderstood for centuries, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness for those with epilepsy.
Shields' interview, published at the start of Epilepsy Awareness Month, sheds light on what happens after a seizure. As a neurologist and epileptologist, I frequently see patients who have just experienced their first seizure. In such situations, it is important to remain calm, lay the person on their side, and avoid putting anything in their mouth. Emergency medical services should be contacted so that the patient can be taken to the nearest emergency room for further evaluation and treatment.
In the emergency room, medical professionals will work to determine the cause of the seizure. This may involve conducting a physical examination, checking blood sugar levels, and performing a CAT scan to rule out any brain bleeding. In Shields' case, she revealed that her seizure was related to low sodium levels caused by excessive water consumption.
Additional tests, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) and an MRI, may be conducted to gather more information about the brain's activity and any structural abnormalities that may have contributed to the seizure. Based on the results and the patient's medical history, doctors will decide whether medication is necessary. It is crucial for individuals diagnosed with epilepsy to take their prescribed medication as directed and avoid triggers such as alcohol.
While anti-seizure medication is effective for many patients, there are cases where surgery may be considered. Patients who do not respond to medication may undergo testing to determine the most suitable surgical option. These individuals should be closely monitored by a neurologist specializing in epilepsy.
It is important to raise awareness about epilepsy and ensure that individuals living with this condition, particularly those from underserved communities, have access to appropriate care and support. Epilepsy Awareness Month and the symbol of lavender should represent the strength, serenity, and resilience of those living with epilepsy, rather than isolation and loneliness. By promoting understanding and providing necessary resources, we can help individuals with epilepsy live fulfilling lives free from stigma and prevent tragic outcomes like sudden unexplained death from epilepsy (SUDEP).