Today, more than three million people in the United States and over 65 million people worldwide are living with epilepsy. More people live with epilepsy than with autism spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy- combined.
Epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder, is a disorder of the brain that causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures. It is typically diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures (or after one seizure with a high risk for more) that were not caused by known medical condition.
Seizures can be a devastating, life changing condition, however there are many misconceptions about epilepsy. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month- an opportunity to empower those living with the disease to take control of their epilepsy, while educating others about the falsifications regarding seizures.
8 Facts You Should Know About Epilepsy
- Epilepsy is common. In fact, you probably know a few people living with epilepsy. A new study from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the number of people with epilepsy has increased over the past decade. In 2015, approximately 3.4 million people in the U.S had active epilepsy and this number continues to remain steady.
- People with epilepsy can lead full lives. Most people with epilepsy can do the same things that people without epilepsy can do. There are many successful people with epilepsy who work in medicine, sports, entertainment, government, and other professions. People with uncontrolled seizures or severe types of epilepsy face more challenges and may find it difficult to work or go to school regularly. Many adults with epilepsy have a hard time finding jobs, transportation, and affording medical care.
- Seizures might look different than you expect. What comes to mind when you think of a seizure? What you see on TV often shows a person falling to the ground, shaking, and becoming unaware of what’s going on around them. That’s one kind of seizure, but it’s not the most common. More often, a person having a seizure may seem confused, stare into space, wander, make unusual movements, or can’t answer questions or talk…. Making it all the more important to learn how to recognize different types of seizures.
- Not everyone with epilepsy has convulsive, jerking seizures. In fact, most people with epilepsy experience "partial" seizures. These affect one area of the brain and can result in physiological reactions, or motor and sensory changes. They can cause a person to stare blankly and/or smack their lips, pluck at their clothing, wander around, or perform other bizarre (but involuntary) actions.
- Having a seizure isn’t the same as having epilepsy. Seizures are symptoms of epilepsy, and you can have a seizure (or seizures) without being diagnosed with epilepsy. A diagnosis usually comes when someone has two unprovoked seizures (meaning it wasn't caused by an injury, infection, drug or alcohol withdrawal, or other health condition) or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more.
- Some causes of epilepsy are preventable. Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain. Many times the cause is unknown. Traumatic brain injuries, stroke, certain infections, and pregnancy complications are some preventable causes of epilepsy. Learn more about preventing epilepsy and reducing your risk.
- Never force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. It’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue, and a “bite block” (wooden spoon, wallet, etc.) could cause serious injury. A person having a convulsive seizure may briefly stop breathing and have a blue skin color.This is normal and brief, and the person will start breathing normally again as soon as their muscles relax. Do not attempt mouth-to-mouth or CPR during a convulsive seizure. Positioning the person on their side with their mouth pointed downward is the best way to keep their airway open.
- Medications can control seizures in most people with epilepsy. Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), aka anticonvulsants, taken daily can control seizures. The exact mechanism of AEDs is not well understood, but it is likely that different AEDs work in slightly different ways. The aim of optimal therapy is to get maximum seizure control with minimum side effects.