Saint Valentine, fact, fiction and epilepsy


Our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young looks at the association between epilepsy and St Valentine and 14 facts and fiction about epilepsy. 

Did you know that St Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy? It is said that St Valentine was called upon by thousands of people with epilepsy.

Stories would have spread and enhanced his reputation for curing people and increased the number of people turning to him for help.

The association between epilepsy and St Valentine has led us to create a blog looking at 14 facts and fiction about epilepsy.


Number 1

Fiction: If you’ve had a seizure, you have epilepsy.

Fact: A person is diagnosed with epilepsy when he or she has recurrent seizures originating in the brain.

However, when something provokes a seizure, such as binge drinking, sleep deprivation or a new medication, these are not related to epilepsy.


Number 2

Fiction: During a seizure, a person could swallow or choke on their tongue.

Fact: It is impossible to swallow or choke on your tongue during a seizure. It is true that during a seizure a person could bite his or her tongue.


Number 3

Fiction: You should force something like a spoon into the mouth of someone having a seizure.

Fact: Never put anything into a person’s mouth, if they are having a seizure. This could cause injury or break their teeth.

Roll the person on one side, keep him or her a safe distance from any nearby objects that may cause harm, and let the seizure run its course.

If a seizure persists for more than five minutes, call for an ambulance.


Number 4

Fiction: It’s easy to tell when a seizure is about to happen.

Fact: Some people experience a brief sensation, pins and needles, a smell, a sound, within seconds of a seizure.

This is called an’ aura’. Research continues and includes training dogs to detect the onset of seizures.


Number 5

Fiction: Epilepsy is most common in children.

Fact: Epilepsy is most common in both the very young and the elderly. However, it can develop at any age.


Number 6

Fiction: Epilepsy can’t be controlled effectively.

Fact: There are many ways to treat and manage seizures, and even for some reach seizure freedom.

Anti-epileptic medications can, in some, effectively reduce the number of seizures.

Some people are candidates for surgery; however, it depends where the seizures originate in the brain.


St Valentine

Number 7

Fiction: People with epilepsy are disabled and can’t work.

 Fact: A large proportion of people living with epilepsy have the same range of abilities as those who do not have epilepsy and will successful in their chosen career.

Some will have associated condition such as learning disability or autism. Some have severe seizures and are unable to work.


Number 8

Fiction: People with epilepsy will pass it on to their children.

 Fact: Children of parents with some forms of epilepsy may be at risk of developing it, but that risk is low.


Number 9

Fiction: You should restrain someone having a seizure.

 Fact: You should never restrain someone having a seizure. You may injure yourself or the person having the seizure. The seizure will run its course and should be self-limiting.


Number 10

Fiction: Women with epilepsy can’t or shouldn’t get pregnant.

 Fact: Epilepsy doesn’t generally affect a woman’s ability to conceive and has a minimal effect on a child’s development.

It is important when thinking about having a baby or finding out you are pregnant you see the Epilepsy Specialist Nurse as soon as possible.

The nurse can help you best prepare for becoming pregnant and/or managing your epilepsy during pregnancy.

Do not stop taking your medication without medical advice, as this could put you and your baby at risk.


Number 11

Fiction: People with epilepsy are mentally ill or emotionally unstable.

Fact: Epilepsy is an umbrella term covering many types of seizures and epileptic disorders. It is also a functional, physical condition, not a mental one.


Number 12

Fiction: Seizures hurt.

Fact: A person may be unconscious, or their awareness significantly impacted but not in any pain during most seizures.

After the seizure, he or she can have discomfort if they fall because of a seizure, bite their tongue or can suffer injuries depending when, where and what they were doing before the seizure took place.


Number 13

Fiction: With today’s medication, epilepsy is largely a solved problem.

Fact: Epilepsy is a chronic medical condition that for many people can be successfully treated.

Unfortunately, treatment doesn’t work for everyone and there is still a great need for more research to be done in all aspects of the condition.


Number 14

Fiction: You can’t tell what person might do during a seizure.

Fact: Seizures commonly take a characteristic form and the individual will do much the same thing during each seizure.

Their behaviour may be inappropriate for the time and place.

They will not interact with the environment the way they would if they weren’t having a seizure.

It is unlikely the behaviour will cause harm to anyone.

Epilepsy is often misunderstood with different facts and fiction surrounding the condition. Even though more is known about epilepsy than in the ancient times of St Valentine, more needs to be done to eliminate the stigma associated with epilepsy.