Jamaica Magazine

Epilepsy: What You Need To Know

Epilepsy: What You Need To Know Although more people in the Caribbean and Latin America are beginning to dissociate epilepsy with evil spirits, and that it is indeed a treatable neurological condition, individuals diagnosed with epilepsy are still stigmatized.

“The devil tek her.” To this day, there are people who continue to believe that a person with epilepsy “was taken over by the devil.” The idea that evil spirits cause epileptic seizures inflates stigmatization.

Public ignorance also plays a main role in the continued stigmatization of epilepsy. There has not been much conversation (nor education) around this issue. The information below can provide basic knowledge about the condition, as well as current misconceptions.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the brain that causes recurrent seizures. Seizures occur when the brain’s electrical signals misfire uncontrollably. While a person is having a seizure, he or she may experience a change in or loss of consciousness, unusual sensations and feelings, or involuntary motions such as jerking or flailing of body parts. A seizure lasts for just a few seconds, but may leave the person feeling tired, weak or disoriented.

A single seizure does not equal epilepsy. However, a person who has repeated seizures is said to have this condition.

What If Someone Is Having A Seizure?
Below is a list of suggestions on what to do when you see somebody having a seizure:

  • Most importantly, stay calm.
  • Try to help the person to lie down on his or her side, placing something soft under the person’s head.
  • Loosen any tight clothing near the neck.
  • Do not restrict the person from moving, unless he or she is in danger.
  • Move sharp or hard objects away from the person that he or she might hit during a seizure
  • Observe the event, taking note how long the seizure lasts and what symptoms occurred so you can describe what happened to a doctor if necessary.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends.

For detailed information about epilepsy, visit www.epilepsy.org/uk Misconceptions About Epilepsy

Below are just a few misconceptions that people have:

Myth: Epilepsy is contagious.
Fact: Epilepsy cannot be “caught” from being in contact with a person with epilepsy.

Myth: People with epilepsy are disabled and cannot work.
Fact: Many people with epilepsy have lived a full, normal life. They have succeeded in many professions, becoming doctors, athletes, authors, etc.

Myth: People with epilepsy can swallow their tongues during a seizure.
Fact: It is physically impossible to do so. Some people think that forcing something into the mouth of someone having a seizure can stop them from swallowing their tongue. Never attempt to jam something into the mouth of a person having a seizure, as this may puncture someone’s gums or even break a jaw.

Where To Go For Information And Help:

International League against Epilepsy http://www.epilepsy.org/Visitors/Centre/Links.cfm

Jamaican Epilepsy Association
Kingston Public Hospital
Oxford Medical Centre
22h Old Hope Road
Kingston 5

About the author

Deidre Patterson, MPH