November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. To some that does not mean much. To others it means close to everything. Epilepsy is a symptom known as frequent, recurrent, or multiple seizures. It is a symptom that many times has an unknown origin and therefore Epilepsy has also become a diagnosis.
Have you ever seen a person have a seizure? Long ago, people thought that a seizure was when a person was overcome by an evil spirit, like a possession. Now we know that a seizure is a ‘storm’ of electrical misfires in the brain. It causes irregular activity from a staring spell to a full on convulsion and lack of consciousness. Many think that seizures are not a big deal; that when it happens it will stop and the person will go on with life as usual. However, epilepsy is one of the most under studied diseases out there and it is also deadly. Did you know that every year, epilepsy kills approximately the same numbers of people that Breast cancer kills, and the same number that car accidents kill? These statistics are pretty powerful, considering many Americans do not even know what epilepsy is.
Here are some facts taken from Cure Epilepsy :
- Epilepsy affects over 3 million Americans of all ages—more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease combined. Almost 500 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the United States. Epilepsy affects 50,000,000 people worldwide.
- In two-thirds of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown.
- Epilepsy can develop at any age and can be a result of genetics, stroke, head injury, and many other factors.
- In over thirty percent of patients, seizures cannot be controlled with treatment. Uncontrolled seizures may lead to brain damage and death. Many more have only partial control of their seizures.
- The severe epilepsy syndromes of childhood can cause developmental delay and brain damage, leading to a lifetime of dependency and continually accruing costs—both medical and societal.
- It is estimated that up to 50,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. from status epilepticus (prolonged seizures), Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), and other seizure-related causes such as drowning and other accidents.
- The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than the general population and the risk of sudden death is twenty-four times greater.
- Recurring seizures are also a burden for those living with brain tumors and other disorders such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, tuberous sclerosis, and a variety of genetic syndromes.
- There is a strong association between epilepsy and depression: more than one of every three persons with epilepsy will also be affected by depression, and people with a history of depression have a higher risk of developing epilepsy.
- Historically, epilepsy research has been under-funded. Federal dollars spent on research pale in comparison to those spent on other diseases, many of which affect fewer people than epilepsy.
- For many soldiers suffering traumatic brain injury on the battlefield, epilepsy will be a long-term consequence.
With all of these facts, are you surprised? I was and my daughter has epilepsy! She was diagnosed in March 2009, she is currently five years old, and we are taking each day at a time. Finding a new normal, and reaching out to all we can! This month for National Epilepsy Awareness Month, I am posting daily on the topic of epilepsy. How it changes your life, what you can do, what you do if someone has a seizure, etc.
For now, I leave you with the two most important things you can do.
1. Help others. Reach out to those in your community with epilepsy. Take a first aid training course. Raise money for epilepsy research and the epilepsy foundation. Wear lavender it is the national epilepsy color. Tell a friend about this article and the highlighted sites.
2. NEVER STICK ANYTHING IN THE MOUTH OF SOMEONE HAVING A SEIZURE! Spoons are useful tools, but NEVER during a seizure!