Seizure Detection & Triggers What Doctors Know

November Is Epilepsy Awareness Month

By Courtney Daly-Pavone November 20, 2019

*This article is a 3 minute read

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by a known medical condition.

Seizure 101

Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family history, but usually the cause is unknown.

November is national epilepsy awareness month. According to The National Epilepsy Foundation, every year 150,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy. Over a lifetime, one in 10 people will have a seizure, and one in 26 will develop epilepsy.

Sleep Deprivation & Seizures

According to Dr. Alison Pack of The Epilepsy Foundation, "Some individuals with epilepsy are more likely to have seizures because of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is not a cause of epilepsy. It can be  a trigger. In our world today many individuals are sleep deprived because of work and social demands particularly given that it is very hard to “turn off.” It is very important to counsel persons with epilepsy about importance of sleep and avoiding sleep deprivation."

Vaping & Food Additives & Seizures

The jury is still out whether or not seizures are triggered by vaping or by processed foods. According to Dr. Pack, "Although there have been media reports of seizures associated with e-cigarette use there is not enough  data to support this association and epilepsy has not been demonstrated to be on the rise secondary to e-cigarette use. Similarly for additives in food."

Do You Know What To Do If Someone Is Having a Seizure? 

Follow These Tips From The National Epilepsy Foundation

  1. STAY with the person and start timing the seizure. Remain calm and check for medical ID.
  2. Keep the person SAFE. Move or guide away from harmful objects.
  3. Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not awake and aware. Don’t block airway, put something small and soft under the head, loosen tight clothes around neck.
  4. Do NOT put anything in their mouth. Don’t give water, pills or food until the person is awake.
  5. Do NOT restrain.
  6. STAY with them until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Most seizures end in a few minutes.

When to Call 911

  • Seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • Repeated seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizure occurs in water
  • Person is injured, pregnant, or sick 

Aids For Individuals With Epilepsy

Man's best friend lives up to its name. 

How can a dog assist someone who suffers from seizures? According to Tonya DiPilla a spokesperson for Canine Partners for Life, "Service dogs placed for seizure alert skills have the innate ability to sense impending seizure activity up to an hour in advance. Having the advance warning allows their partner to move to a safe environment and avoid a fall or serious injury. Seizure alert dogs take away the fear of not knowing when a seizure is going to occur. All of our seizure alert dogs are also trained to help with physical tasks so they can retrieve items, carry objects, open/close doors and drawers and much more. Some of our dogs also wear mobility harnesses so they can help provide balance/support while walking, assist with going from a seated to a standing position, and much more."

Having a dog to assist and alert individuals with epilepsy helps them have some independence, but Dr. Alison Pack recommends them with caution. "I do not routinely recommend seizure dogs for persons with epilepsy. There is no conclusive data to support that dogs are able to detect seizures. The dogs do however provide many other potential benefits including potentially safeguarding the person if they have a seizure and allowing independence for persons who may be limited."

Seizure alert dogs have proven themselves worthy according to Karen Shirk of 4 Paws for Ability. "A mom called to tell me her daughter had earned her angel wings and thanked me for her service dog. The dog alerted at night and Mom went to spend 30 minutes with her daughter in her bed before the seizure occurred. She never woke up from that seizure. It was 30 minutes she would have never had."

Watches are a new aid in early detection of seizures The SmartWatch Inspyre by Smart Monitor detects repetitive shaking motion, it signals the user’s device (iPhone or Android phone) to send text and phone call alerts to the users family members and care providers.

Within seconds, family members receive these alerts which include the date, time, location, and duration of the event. SmartWatch Inspyre users can also summon help with the push of a button. Alerts can be sent to any phone, anywhere, and detailed reports of each event can be securely accessed for later review with physicians.