Epilepsy has been historically stigmatized in various cultures and societies around the world, mainly due to a lack of understanding about its nature and the prevalence of myths. Neurologist Dr. María del Pilar Pozo, a graduate from our university, provided valuable insights on this chronic non-communicable brain disease on the program Tu salud on Cayetano+, hosted by Dr. Leslie Soto.

A diagnosis of epilepsy is established when a person experiences at least two unprovoked seizures separated by a significant period or when there is clinical or medical test evidence suggesting a high risk of future seizures.

“That seizure manifests itself through shaking, but it can also depend on the affected brain area. The patients see and hear strange things, and they have sensations or shut down as if they were gone. There, we can say that this event is a seizure. If this situation is repeated after three months, and there are already two or three events, we call this whole picture epilepsy”, explained Dr. Pozo.

The recurrent presence of unprovoked seizures characterizes the diagnosis of epilepsy. It is based on clinical evaluation, medical history, neuroimaging studies, and, in some cases, electrophysiological tests such as electroencephalogram.

The neurologist stressed that experiencing a seizure does not automatically imply having epilepsy. However, seeking medical attention to identify the underlying cause and receiving appropriate treatment, if necessary, is crucial. The diagnosis and management of epilepsy are the responsibilities of healthcare professionals, such as neurologists and epileptologists.  

“We -the specialists- for epilepsy in neurology, rely a lot on the initial event of the seizure, the crisis, as we say, and the risk of recurrence. If there is no risk of recurrence and it is just a seizure, we do not always treat it, but if there is someone who falls, hits, and has a seizure, what we do is observe for three or four months. If this does not happen again, we probably do not give (treatment). Obviously, we observe them and give them the warning signs,” added Dr. Pozo.

She also clarified that various factors, such as high fever, brain injuries, infections, metabolic disorders, or the consumption of drugs and alcohol, among others, can cause seizures.

A healthcare professional must evaluate anyone experiencing seizures or similar symptoms to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Dr. Pozo emphasized that early diagnosis and treatment can help control seizures and improve the quality of life of affected individuals.

Recommendations to be considered when assisting a person with a seizure due to epilepsy:

  • Remain calm to be able to help effectively.
  • Secure the environment by removing nearby objects that may cause injury during the seizure.
  • Place pillows or soft objects under the person’s head to prevent injury.
  • Do not restrict the person’s movements during the seizure.
  • Avoid inserting objects in the mouth, as this may cause injury.
  • Place the person on his or her side to facilitate breathing and prevent aspiration of saliva or vomit after the seizure.
  • Seek medical help immediately.
  • Measure the time of the seizure, noting the time of onset and termination, to provide helpful information to the physician providing subsequent care.
  • Provide emotional support to the person after the seizure, as they may be confused or frightened.