Five misconceptions about epilepsy

This disease, or rather these diseases because there are many forms, is unknown and raises many popular beliefs. Yet it affects 1% of the population. Decryption.

Epilepsy is a group of diseases that manifest in the unpredictable repetition of epileptic seizures. AFP illustration photo
To fight against the received ideas on the epilepsy, and to make that the disease is no longer taboo, it is the fight of the Pr Stéphane Auvin, which gives tips of daily life in the book The epilepsy in the child (* ) . Back on some ready made ideas.

Epilepsy is a mental illness

First of all, we often use the word epilepsy in the singular, when it is actually a set of diseases. They begin in childhood and adolescence, but can also occur in adulthood. The three main types are focal seizure epilepsy, centro-temporal epilepsy and absence epilepsy. 

“These are neurological diseases, brain dysfunction but not mental diseases,” says Professor Stéphane Auvin, neuropediatrician, specialist in child and adolescent epilepsies.

Epilepsies are a group of diseases that manifest themselves by the unpredictable repetition of epileptic seizures. Seizures are the consequence of a temporary “disorganization” of a more or less extended part of the brain.

In case of crisis, the child may swallow his tongue

“A patient can not choke during a seizure, there is no risk either that he swallows his tongue, so do not put anything in his mouth or try to open his jaw by force” insists Stéphane Auvin.

This popular belief reflects the feeling of imminent danger from someone convulsing, a traumatic scene for those around them. 

What to do in the event of a crisis ? “You have to protect the patient so that he does not get injured on a table or a vase nearby, for example, once the space is secure, lay it on its side and wait for the end of the crisis. The crisis lasts an average of 3 and a half minutes and if it lasts more than 5 minutes, call 15 “, advises Stéphane Auvin.

Screens and video games trigger epilepsies

There may be seizures triggered by the stimulations of screens, but it is extremely rare. “Depending on what is observed by the parents, the doctor will be able to say if it can have an impact on their child or teenager.If this is the case, the doctor will explain the adaptations see if any restriction measures. is not the case, there is no need to apply other rules than those of the family in terms of screen, “said Stéphane Auvin.

Epilepsies are hereditary

It is not hereditary diseases, except exception. On the other hand, they can have genetic causes, by genetic accidents that lead to malformations of the brain or a malfunction of the “electricity” of the brain. The other reasons for epilepsy are many: developmental anomaly, birth accident, stroke of the baby at birth that leaves scars on the brain …

These brain malformations, and epileptic seizures that are the manifestation of the disease, can have varying impacts depending on individuals on the development of children and adolescents, as well as their learning abilities.

Epilepsies recover spontaneously in adolescence

“Some forms of the disease, epilepsy centro-temporal heal, heal in adolescence.This represents half of the epilepsies beginning in childhood.On the other hand, for others, the disease is not cured. There is currently no treatment to overcome the disease.Antiepileptic drugs are anti-crisis treatments.They prevent the symptom to occur, but do not heal, “explains Stéphane Auvin. In addition, about 20% of patients do not experience an improvement in their situation, even with medication.

We must learn to live with a disease that has a heavy social impact on a daily basis.

(*) Epilepsy in children, Tips for everyday life. Stéphane Auvin, with the testimony of Soline Roy, Editions John Libbey Eurotext.
“A disease that weighs heavily on everyday life”
– Treating epilepsies is not limited to medical treatment. These pathologies have a heavy impact on the daily lives of patients and their families. For a child, this means a special follow-up by the parents – for example, that he does not bathe alone, to avoid drowning in a crisis, the implementation of support procedures for the child. ‘school …

– For a teenager, “the challenge is to avoid inappropriate restrictions.The balance between the risk of the crises and the other risk of isolating them from other adolescents because of their fragility must be balanced. Thus, some parents, while wanting to do well, put their adolescent permanently under surveillance, it restricts his intimacy and his social interactions essential to the construction of his identity.By forbidding him to go out while one authorizes his little brothers and sisters can also be problematic for the development of the adolescent “, insists Stéphane Auvin.

– When the crisis occurs in adulthood, it also has a traumatic impact on everyday life. “This means that you can no longer drive, or if you are a caregiver for example, that you can not work: it has an effect over your entire life, “says the doctor. Not to mention the negative view that is laid on patients at school or elsewhere. For Stéphane Auvin, taking charge of the disease “must not neglect the social integration” of patients. 


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