With World Purple Day around the corner, it’s important that epilepsy patients and their loved ones get the support they need. World Purple Day is an international event used to spread awareness about epilepsy. Since the founding of the Purple Day Act in June of 2012, over 85 countries have participated in the mission to educate people on what epilepsy is all about.
What is Epilepsy?
An American study showed that one in every 26 people will experience a form of epilepsy in their lifetime. Every year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with this condition, with a number of the cases unaware of how they get it.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that interferes with central nervous system function. This disorder is the fourth most popular neurological condition in America. Seizures, which are the most common symptom of epilepsy, are usually the root cause of other symptoms including disorientation, blank stares, and involuntary twitching.
Types of Epilepsy
Recently, the International League Against Epilepsy expanded their classifications from two to three based on the three main types of seizures. These categories stem from the three common characteristics of seizures, which include their origin, how aware the sufferer is during the seizure, and other features like the motor skills.
From these characteristics, the three types of seizures are focal onset, generalized, and unknown onset. Of the three types, focal onset seizures are the most common. They’re also relatively mild and only last for a couple of minutes, making it easier to work through.
When focal seizures escalate, they become generalized seizures. Generalized seizures lead to falls, intense muscle contractions, and even unconsciousness. These are the second most common type of epileptic seizures.
Finally, there’s the unknown onset seizure. Up to 20 percent of epilepsy patients experience this type. As the title of this seizure type indicates, the specific origins are unknown. Although they are epilepsy-related, unknown seizures aren’t related to electric discharges in the brain.
Seizures can affect every demographic, regardless of age and race. Therefore, education is key to staying vigilant. Oftentimes, people who have experienced a seizure believe they have epilepsy. However, patients must have at least two unprovoked seizures to receive an official diagnosis.
Epilepsy Diagnosis and Treatment
If you’re exhibiting epilepsy-related symptoms, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. After reviewing your symptoms, your healthcare provider will run a series of tests. To start, your doctor will do a neurological exam. These exams test your motor skill as well as mental and behavioral functions to identify which form of epilepsy you have.
You will also undergo blood tests, which help identify an infection or genetic disorder that could be causing seizures. If necessary, they will also suggest additional testing like MRIs, CT scans, and CCGs, which are tests that monitor for brain abnormalities.
After finding out which form of epilepsy you have, you will move on to the treatment process. The most common form of epilepsy treatment is medication. Anti-epileptic medication helps you live a seizure-free life or come very close. As the symptoms decrease, epilepsy patients can reduce their medication intake or stop taking them altogether.
Like any other treatment, anti-epileptic medication comes with some potential side effects. For instance, some patients experienced:
- Reduced bone density
- Poor coordination
- Loss of coordination
- Cognitive and memory dysfunction
In more severe cases, epilepsy sufferers can develop depression, suicidal thoughts or actions, and organ inflammation. To minimize the chances of these side effects, it’s important to take medication exactly as it’s prescribed and only discontinue use with a doctor’s consent. It’s also important to seek immediate treatment, especially when severe symptoms occur.
Of course, you will have many appointments to discuss how effective the medication is. If medication doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend alternatives, including surgery. Brain surgery is only performed to remove the portion responsible for the seizures, as long as it doesn’t interfere with otherwise vital functions.
In some cases, you will still take medication. However, you will need much less. While most surgeries are successful, some people do experience complications like permanent cognitive function damage. Therefore, thoroughly do your research before choosing a surgeon.If you or a loved one has epilepsy, there are organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation that are dedicated to sharing information and support. If you’re interested in helping find a cure, be sure to reach out to local epilepsy groups and support Purple Day.