News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and local doctors are working every day to learn more about the disease we really don't know much about.
"The way the brain works is just fascinating," said Dr. Anthony Murro, a neurology professor at GHS Medical Center.
Murro works with epileptic patients and researches epilepsy.
He says seizures are caused by a brief period of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which creates abnormal behavior.
The physical signs of seizures differ from person to person.
"Some people may begin with a brief lapse in awareness, a blank stare," he said. "But then the seizure may evolve into the more severe seizure with stiffening and falling to the ground."
Some patients, like Alyse Moseley, have had epilepsy since birth.
"I was diagnosed at 6 months old, so I've had [epilepsy] for 27 years. I've been in and out of the hospital since I was a little girl, so it's been a long road for me," she said.
Others develop epilepsy later in life after a specific brain injury. For example, soldiers returning home from the battlefield may develop symptoms for the first time.
"Among Iraqi veterans, there's a high prevalence of epilepsy, higher than expected prevalence," Murro said. "And that's because of the traumatic brain injuries."
Dr. Murro follows about 1,000 patients every year and says their seizures can happen at any moment.
"It's not scary for the patient because they're unaware of what's occurring," he said. "But for friends or family it can be a terrifying experience."
Experts say it's very likely you could encounter someone with epilepsy, possibly when they're having a seizure.
Dr. Murro says to remain calm
"Don't put anything in their mouth. Commonly the lay public thinks they're supposed to put a spoon in their mouth or fingers in the mouth, but they can actually damage their teeth. So just keep the person safe."
He says not to panic; the seizure will pass within a few moments.
You should always call for help or emergency personnel if you do not know the patient or are unsure of his or her epileptic history.
Dr. Murro says he and other neurologists at the GHS Medical Center are working hard to develop new treatments.
"We are currently testing, for example, an implanted device used for treating epilepsy. It's an electrical device that will provide a brief shock to the brain to stop the seizures from occurring," he said. "So it's a revolutionary approach to treating epilepsy."
Even though the disease can be disabling, Moseley says she lives, works and functions safely on her own thanks to medication.
"If anyone out there has seizures, don't let them control you. You control them," she said.
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