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Resources and Ways to Support Pennsylvanians Living with Epilepsy

By PA Dept of Health

Dec 02, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine highlighted resources for those diagnosed with epilepsy and shared ways to help someone cope with this medical condition, and aid someone experiencing a seizure.

“Epilepsy is a disorder of the nervous system that can cause unpredictable seizures and other health problems – it can affect anyone, at any age, at any time. Most people with epilepsy lead normal and happy lives, but can suffer from seizures without warning,” Dr. Levine said. “In Pennsylvania, more than 133,000 people are living with active seizures and 1 to 2 percent of all Pennsylvanians are affected by epilepsy. We are pleased to bring awareness to and share ways we can support our fellow Pennsylvanians who live with this medical condition.”

Seizures are the result of sudden, brief changes in the brain’s electrical balance.  When there are excess electrical charges in the brain, seizures occur. Seizures can alter awareness, physical movements, and consciousness or actions. They typically last a few seconds to a few minutes. However, seizures can last much longer or repeat without the individual able to recover in between.

Often seizures first develop during the pre-school and elementary school years. As this condition affects more than 3.4 million people across the country, nearly half a million of them are children.

While epilepsy is generally a chronic and/or lifelong condition, many people with epilepsy reduce the number of seizures they experience through the use of medications, special diets, or surgery. Some people find that certain things trigger their seizures, such as stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, or not getting enough sleep.

Seizures can happen anywhere at any time. If an individual begins to have a seizure in your presence, you can prevent or minimize injury that might occur as a result of the seizure by:

  • Staying calm and keeping track of the time;
  • Moving anything out of the way that might injure the person;
  • Gently rolling the person onto his or her side;
  • Putting something soft under his or her head;
  • Loosening anything tight around his or her neck;
  • Not putting anything into the person’s mouth;
  • Not trying to hold the person down or stop them from shaking; and
  • Checking for epilepsy or seizure disorder identification.

If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, you should call for help. Remember, if you see someone having a seizure, you can help.  You can’t do anything to stop the seizure, but you may be able to prevent and/or minimize injury that might occur as a result of the seizure.

In central and western Pennsylvania, call the Epilepsy Association of Western and Central Pennsylvania at 800-361-5885. In eastern Pennsylvania, call the Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania at 215-629-5003.

For more information on Epilepsy, please visit the department’s website.

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