International Epilepsy Day is a day for people around the world to promote awareness of epilepsy, a condition affecting 50 million people worldwide. Abarca goes all in to join this cause and rally support for the families and people living with it.
If this serious medical condition affects someone you love, you probably already understand its impact. But for the rest of the world, epilepsy remains a largely mysterious and often misunderstood disease. These misperceptions impact people living with epilepsy significantly, and it is time to put those myths to bed. Here are some key facts you need to know about epilepsy.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Seizures are sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain that can cause dramatic changes in a person’s body movement, behavior, and level of consciousness. Experiencing a seizure is not the same as having epilepsy. In fact, the majority of adults will experience at least one seizure during their lifetime. Seizures can be a sign that something is wrong in the brain, and isolated events such as extremely low blood sugar, excess alcohol or drugs in the blood, or high fever in children can trigger a seizure episode. In the majority of cases, correcting the precipitant factor eliminates the seizure without further complications.
Epilepsy occurs when a person tends to have recurrent seizures. Epilepsy is not a single disease, and it can have several causes such as a brain tumor, trauma to the brain, or a stroke.
Children can also have epilepsy, and many sufferers are born with the illness. Fortunately for those youngsters, some children appear to grow out of their epilepsy, experiencing fewer and fewer seizures as they get older. Even so, it is important to monitor anyone born with the condition, no matter their age.
How is Epilepsy Treated?
Epilepsy can be a difficult condition to treat, and many treatments focus only on managing the most troubling symptoms. Those who have epilepsy may be prescribed special drugs called antiepileptics that reduce their ongoing seizures, allowing them to live happier and more productive lives.
For symptoms that cannot be controlled with medication, brain surgery may be proposed. This specialized procedure removes the portion of the brain that is triggering the seizures (called epileptic foci) and can be remarkably effective. Other potential treatments for those with intractable epilepsy include vagus nerve stimulation, a device similar to the pacemakers used by cardiac patients. These implantable devices stimulate the vagus nerve, and that stimulation can reduce the impact of seizures and even leave some epilepsy patients seizure-free.
In addition to medication, surgery, and implantable devices, a person’s diet may play a role in reducing epilepsy symptoms and lessen the impact of the illness.
Could You Be at Risk?
Epilepsy does not discriminate, and anyone could be at risk. The disease affects both men and women, and although the condition can occur at any age, it follows a bimodal presentation, being more prevalent in children and older adults. While some children are born with it, even those who were unaffected in childhood can begin to experience seizures, tremors, and other symptoms of the disease.
Get Seizure Smart
Ask yourself, would you know how to help someone during or after a seizure? The CDC provides a step by step guide on exactly what to do if someone around you is experiencing a seizure.
If you or someone you know suffers from epilepsy, there are ways to manage the condition so that you can live a full and healthy life. Epilepsy self-management education (SME) programs can help you learn how to control your seizures, manage its symptoms, deal with stress, and improve your sleeping habits.
If you have a child who has epilepsy, use these highlighted tips to make sure he or she is safe and supported during the school day. The CDC also provides an array of free resources to help you or someone you love better manage life with epilepsy.
As part of our mission in finding a better way in healthcare, Abarca takes action by bringing awareness to epilepsy through education and information. Help spread the word to get people “seizure smart.” Just knowing how to handle a seizure alone can help save someone’s life.
This blog was written by Suzette Velez, Director of Clinical Services at Abarca Health.