Raising awareness about epilepsy
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Everyone should be aware of epilepsy because it is a severe, life-threatening condition.
Epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder, is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system. It is the third most common neurological disorder in America, after Alzheimer's Disease and stroke.
Nearly three million Americans have epilepsy -- more than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease combined. As many as 50,000 Americans die each year from seizure-related incidents, which is more than those who die from breast cancer.
Epilepsy can occur at any age, but it is more likely to begin among children age 2 and younger and adults age 65 and older. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had two seizures not caused by a known medical condition (like alcohol withdrawal or dangerously low blood sugar). Sometimes, though, it can be diagnosed after just one if a person has a condition that places him or her at high risk of having another.
Seizures may be related to a brain injury or family tendency, but the cause is usually unknown. If someone has seizures and doesn't consult a doctor for treatment, he or she has a higher risk for additional seizures, disability, a decrease in health and even death.
I, personally, am very familiar with epilepsy because my father is epileptic and has had seizures since he was 12 years old. Epilepsy runs in his family: he, his mother and his father as well as three (of five) aunts and four cousins on his father's side all are/were epileptic.
Before my father began going to his new neurologist, he had seizures frequently. Luckily, his new neurologist slowly took him off one medication (Dilantin) and put him on another (Keppra), which allowed him to go a year and three months without having another seizure.
There are many different types of seizures. In fact, there are so many that neurologists who specialize in epilepsy are still updating ways to classify them. Usually, though, they're classified into two different types: primary generalized seizures and partial seizures.
Primary generalized seizures occur when both sides of the brain submit an electrical discharge at once. Partial seizures, on the other hand, begin with an electrical discharge from only one area of the brain.
My father has a type of primary generalized seizure known as a Grand Mal seizure. When a brain wave test was done, there was seizure activity occurring in his brain every nine seconds.
Seizures don't just go away overnight. They're usually something you have to deal with for the rest of your life unless something happens like you undergo life-risking surgery to remove the part of your brain that causes seizures or your doctor takes you off the medication that may be causing them.
To learn more about epilepsy, visit www.epilepsyfoundation.org.