November is epilepsy awareness month—it’s almost over! So, if anything, read this short article to make yourself a little more aware. If you find it half interesting go tell your friend. Wear purple. There, you did your part.
One in twenty-six people will have epilepsy in their lifetime-- that’s about 65 million people living with epilepsy in the world. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disease, it affects more people than MS, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and Parkinson’s combined, but receives fewer federal dollars per patient than all of these. (CURE Epilepsy http://www.cureepilepsy.org/aboutepilepsy/facts.asp)
You might have heard of people with epilepsy or maybe you know someone, but you probably didn’t realize that every day there are people walking next to you, even working with you, that are also affected by the disorder. Epilepsy puts so much apprehension on people’s lives all around us, whether it be a daily routine, working or playing.
You would have no idea because, a) there are so many medications that can control the seizures, or partially control the seizures, or b) their types of seizures aren’t very recognizable to an outsider.
Medications work wonders and give people a normal life; however, they are also extremely hard on one’s body. Much of the time-fighting epilepsy is also fighting the medication that is fighting the seizures… this doesn’t even seem logical, but to anyone with epilepsy it makes perfect sense. Medication side effects can include nausea, depression, dizziness, tiredness, migraines, vomiting, moodiness, rashes, changes in menstrual cycles, all of the above and so much more.
Another reason one wouldn’t recognize someone with epilepsy could be that his or her types of seizures aren’t your stigmatized grand-mal seizure. There are many types of seizures such as absence, complex partial, petit mal, partial, general seizures, etc. Crazy, right?! Considering that all the media shows us are grand mal seizures—where one falls to the ground convulsing, eyes rolling back, all of that--there are actually so many more. Grand mal seizures are the most dangerous, however, the others are extremely prevalent and can be just as dangerous.
Epilepsy is different for everyone. Seizures come in all shapes and sizes.
An absence seizure characteristically is where someone will blank and stare into space; if it is a complex absence seizure there is usually some movement that accompanies the staring like chewing or blinking. If one has an absence seizure they might not notice what’s happening around them. Someone with absence seizures could go years without even knowing what’s happening to them, as they may think the 5-10 second blank outs are normal or are second nature to them. (Epilepsy http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures/absence-seizures)
A partial seizure is typically where someone will have an aura telling them they are about to have a seizure. They will have an automatism, they fumble around with their hands, smack their mouth, maybe it’s simply picking at clothing, etc. They could lose time and memory for those 30-90 seconds. (Epilepsy http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures/complex-partial-seizures)
These are two types of seizures. There are hundreds! Thousands! People will have several types of seizures, seizures with all different symptoms, or both, different seizures with different symptoms.
Imagine sitting at work on the computer writing up an article, or finishing a balance sheet, then all of a sudden you blank out. 15 seconds later you regain your awareness, but you’re completely thrown off. Where do you start again? Wait, what were you doing?
Imagine sitting in a meeting. It is your turn to speak then suddenly you go blank or you start fidgeting or you start chomping your jaw excessively. What are those people going to think when you can’t answer them? What are they going to think when you do these odd movements?
Imagine washing the dishes and all of a sudden blanking out and freezing, subsequently dropping the dish in the sink. It shatters.
Imagine sitting in the waiting room of your dream job and you’re anticipating being called in, nonetheless, you start to have a small seizure--you can’t focus or think. Your interview is in a few minutes. Now what?
Imagine a first date. All of a sudden you stare into space and start drooling because your jaw is locked, then you start excessively blinking. He or she is looking at you like your crazy, they’re waving their hands in front of your face attempting to get your attention. There probably won’t be a second date.
Epilepsy isn’t just scary grand mal seizures, but it’s the little things every day.
Besides actual seizures, people with epilepsy are also at risk for SUDEP, or “Sudden Unexpected Death In Epilepsy.” Who knew! About 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP and your chances increase to 1 in 150 if the seizures aren’t controlled. Doctors literally have no idea why this occurs. Autopsies show no other cause of death. It’s not that a seizure caused the death through choking or inhibiting breathing either—there simply is no explanation. (Epilepsy http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/impact/mortality/sudep)
This is why epilepsy needs more awareness. This. All of this. You know the mainstream grand mal seizure where someone falls to the ground and starts to convulse, but what you don’t know about are the other hundreds of types of seizures that occur. Now you know a few. Now you are a little more aware of the daily implications, and understand how serious this disorder really is. I encourage you to look further into the disorder at websites like epilepsy.com, cureepilepsy.org, and epilepsysociety.org.uk.
Epilepsy is severely underfunded, underresearched, unknown and misinterpreted… help out the doctors, those with epilepsy and the general public.
Spread a little awareness. Spread a little love.