THE FACTS-THE FIRST SEIZURE AND THE DIAGNOSIS OF EPILEPSY: OTHER CAUSES OF IMPAIRED OXYGEN SUPPLY TO THE BRAIN-OVERBREATHING
Breathing in and out too fast and too deep is one bodily way in which, like palpitations, anxiety is manifested. This response seems to be particularly common in adolescent girls. If continued for more than a few minutes, excessive carbon dioxide is removed by the lungs from the blood, which becomes correspondingly alkaline. This affects the levels of calcium in the blood, and, in turn, the conduction of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscles. The net effect is that the subject experiences painful tingling in the hands and toes, which become flexed and contracted in a cramped posture. The lack of carbon dioxide also produces a feeling of light-headedness, and the total picture may be confused with a seizure. Treatment is simple and dramatically effective. A paper or polythene bag is placed (temporarily!) over the patient’s, nose and mouth, so that she re-breathes her own expired air, rich in carbon dioxide. The body chemistry and clinical state rapidly return to normal.
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