DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When my son was in high school, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. His first and second seizures occurred at school. No one there had any training on how to handle a seizure. I am writing to ask you to explain to people what a seizure is and how to help a person having one. There is so much misinformation about this. My son, incidentally, has graduated from college and has not had a seizure in the past five years. – L.L.
ANSWER: Most people are frightened when witnessing a seizure and are at a complete loss about what they should do. There are many seizure varieties, but I’ll confine my remarks to a grand mal seizure, the kind with the most dramatic manifestations.
All seizures are sudden, excessive electrical discharges from brain cells. A grand mal seizure affects most of the brain, and that’s why its signs are so striking. Quite often, it occurs without warning. The person stiffens and might make a loud moaning noise. He or she then falls to the ground and makes a series of jerking movements of the arms and legs as muscles contract and relax rapidly. The jerking usually lasts about half a minute to a minute.
Bystanders who have never witnessed a seizure are unnerved by it. Invariably, one will try to pry open the seizing person’s mouth so the person doesn’t swallow the tongue. That’s the wrong thing to do. During a seizure, people never swallow their tongues. Onlookers should not try to restrain the arms or legs. They should place the seizing person on his or her side to keep the airway open, and they can loosen the collar or tie. The seizure will run its course in a short time.
Once the muscle contractions have stopped, the person is unconscious for a while and gradually awakens, confused. The best course is to offer the person transportation to a place where treatment can be given if needed, or to call 911 for help.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I caught my fingers in a closing door. Two fingernails have turned black. I don’t want my nails pulled off. How can I get them back to normal? – S.F.
ANSWER: If the black is pooled blood, a doctor can bore a tiny hole into the nail and let it out. If the blood has congealed, it has to stay there and you have to wait until it’s absorbed by the body, which will happen in time. That might take a couple of months.
If the nails themselves have become discolored, then it takes six months for a new nail to grow from the base to the nail tip.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What happens to artery buildup when one stops eating trans fats? – M.C.
ANSWER: It takes a lot of work to reverse artery buildup, but it can be done if a person carefully watches the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol eaten. You have to do other things too. You have to keep blood pressure in the normal range. You have to exercise regularly. You can’t smoke.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475.
©2008 North America Synd.