Even within the health and medical world, epilepsy and seizures are a somewhat under discussed topic, with information quite difficult to find. I have tried to answer some of the 'basic' questions.
Epilepsy is defined as "a tendency to have recurrent seizures". So what is a seizure and what does it look like? Well, a seizure is a sudden surge of synchronous or excessive neuronal activity in the brain. This means the brain is sending lots of electrical impulses flying around the brain. Symptoms can vary by seizure type and not all seizure involve falling to the floor and convulsing, which is the stereotype most people hold.
One of the first topics people ask me about is how their family and loved ones can help them in the event they have a seizure. The important thing to keep in mind is that the first aid requirements differ by seizure type and that what you tell them will need to be based around your own epilepsy. Check my post on seizure types if you need help with this. There are around 60 different individual seizure types including motor, non-motor and combinations of the two. The reason for these different seizure types is based on the type of epilepsy and where the epileptiform activity is based.
First and foremost, the key is to prevent unnecessary harm. There is generally nothing we can do to halt a seizure unless you have some kind of medication for that such as diazepam or buccal midazolam.
Most of the damage we do to ourselves during a seizure is from the effects of the seizure (with convulsive seizures). This is from the fall and the shaking which people most commonly associate with epilepsy. The most important thing is to protect the head. Put something soft under the head to prevent damage on the floor. Sometimes you will hear people saying “put something in the patients mouth to stop them swallowing their tongue” – I cannot stress enough; this is a physical impossibility. You will not swallow your tongue and putting anything in the mouth of someone having a seizure is extremely dangerous!
If it is possible, move any nearby objects away from the patient to ensure they don’t damage their limbs and allow the seizure to take place – do not restrict the movements of the patient as this will just cause them to pull muscles and leave them in more pain after the seizure.
Try to time the seizure as accurately as you can – don’t estimate it as it is very scary to witness and will feel much longer than it actually is. If it is possible, it is often useful information for diagnosis if you can film the seizure. Whilst this may seem like an unpleasant thing to do (and is not advised in public as it can be misconstrued), it can be extremely useful as a diagnostic tool in determining the seat of the epileptiform activity.
Once the seizure is over, be calming and reassuring toward the patient and allow them to wake gently. They will be extremely confused and will need plenty of reassurance that everything is ok. They will also need to be told that they have had a seizure as their confusion will prevent them from understanding what has happened.
The Human Brain - Source of Epilepsy