How to over­come and man­age EPILEPSY

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH - Yourhealth@glean­

EPILEPSY IS one of the most preva­lent neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders in the world, with a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Ja­maicans suf­fer­ing from the med­i­cal con­di­tion. De­spite this fact, it re­mains shrouded in mys­tery, dis­crim­i­nated against and un­der­funded in re­search.

This year, dur­ing Na­tional Epilepsy Aware­ness Month which is ob­served ev­ery November, the Ja­maican Epilepsy As­so­ci­a­tion (JEA) is on a re­newed mis­sion to ed­u­cate the pub­lic about the highly mis­un­der­stood con­di­tion, which af­fects a re­ported eight to 10 per cent of Ja­maicans. The as­so­ci­a­tion will talk about how to go the dis­tance to­wards a life with the best seizure con­trol pos­si­ble as well as how to over­come and man­age epilepsy.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the JEA, Joy McHugh, ex­plained that Na­tional Epilepsy Month pro­vides a great op­por­tu­nity for the or­gan­i­sa­tion to en­gage the pub­lic.

“Epilepsy is more than seizures. It is treat­able, man­age­able and con­trol­lable,” she stated.

She added that some of the com­mon causes of epilepsy in­clude brain in­juries, chem­i­cal im­bal­ances, strokes, brain tu­mours, and can be­gin at any age and to any­one.

Dur­ing the month, the JEA will host a so­cial-me­dia cam­paign on Face­book, which will fea­ture videos about epilepsy, posters, fea­tures of in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with epilepsy as well as tips on how to help some­one hav­ing a seizure.

Ad­di­tion­ally, se­lect schools will wear pur­ple on par­tic­u­lar days of the month in a bid to raise funds, thus fur­ther­ing JEA’s out­reach.

To­mor­row, the as­so­ci­a­tion will host its mar­quee event – a grand fundrais­ing fish fry in the park­ing lot of An­drews Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal. Or­ders will be placed dur­ing the month and col­lected on the day.


Epilepsy is a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der caused by mal­func­tion­ing nerve cell ac­tiv­ity in the brain. These mal­func­tions cause episodes called seizures.

Over a life­time, one in 26 peo­ple will be di­ag­nosed with epilepsy.

Seizures can cause a range of symp­toms, from mo­men­tar­ily star­ing blankly to loss of aware­ness and un­con­trol­lable twitch­ing. Some seizures can be milder than oth­ers, but even mi­nor seizures can be dan­ger­ous if they oc­cur dur­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like swim­ming or driv­ing.

Seizures are some­times called ‘fits’ or ‘at­tacks’. Seizures hap­pen when there is a sud­den in­ter­rup­tion in the way the brain nor­mally works.

There are over 40 dif­fer­ent types of seizure. What seizures look like can vary. For ex­am­ple, some­one may go ‘blank’ for a cou­ple of sec­onds, they may wan­der around and be quite con­fused, or they may fall to the ground and shake (con­vulse). So not all seizures in­volve con­vul­sions.

Epilepsy can start at any age, but is most com­monly di­ag­nosed in peo­ple un­der 20 and peo­ple over 65. This is be­cause some causes are more com­mon in young peo­ple (such as dif­fi­cul­ties at their birth, child­hood in­fec­tions or ac­ci­dents) and in older peo­ple (such as strokes that lead to epilepsy). For some peo­ple, their epilepsy might ‘go away’ and they stop hav­ing seizures. This is called spon­ta­neous re­mis­sion.

Epilepsy is usu­ally treated with med­i­ca­tion called anti-epilep­tic drugs (AEDs). AEDs aim to stop seizures from hap­pen­ing, but they do not cure epilepsy. With the right AEDs, up to 70 per cent of peo­ple with epilepsy could have their seizures con­trolled (stopped).

For peo­ple who do not have their seizures con­trolled with AEDs, surgery may be an op­tion. This can in­volve re­mov­ing the part of their brain that causes the seizures.

Epilepsy af­fects more peo­ple than mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, cere­bral palsy, mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy and Parkin­son’s com­bined – yet re­ceives less fund­ing per pa­tient than each of these.

Sud­den Un­ex­pected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) ac­counts for 34 per cent of all sud­den deaths in chil­dren.

In two-thirds of pa­tients di­ag­nosed with epilepsy, the cause is un­known.

When the cause of epilepsy is de­ter­mined, the four most com­mon are head trauma, stroke, brain tu­mour, and brain in­fec­tion. Other causes in­clude drug ef­fects or in­tox­i­ca­tion, ge­net­ics, meta­bolic dis­tur­bances. The causes may vary by age with ge­netic, con­gen­i­tal mal­for­ma­tions or meta­bolic dis­tur­bances more com­mon in young chil­dren, trauma and tu­mours more com­mon in young adults, and stoke most com­mon in older adults. The cause is ‘un­known’ in 60 to 70 per cent of cases.

Symp­toms and signs of epilepsy may vary from per­son to per­son, but are usu­ally con­sis­tent and pre­dictable for each in­di­vid­ual. Ex­am­ples of symp­toms are loss of aware­ness, men­tal con­fu­sion, speech im­pair­ment, pares­the­sias (ab­nor­mal sen­sa­tions such as numb­ness or tin­gling), ol­fac­tory, gus­ta­tory or vis­ual hal­lu­ci­na­tions, and/or ab­dom­i­nal dis­com­fort. Ex­am­ples of ex­ter­nal signs are men­tal con­fu­sion, star­ing, changes in mus­cle tone, mus­cle twitches or jerk­ing move­ments, oral or man­ual au­to­matic be­hav­iour (au­toma­tisms), un­steadi­ness, and con­vul­sions.

Con­tribut­ing fac­tors to re­cur­rent seizure or treat­ment fail­ure in­clude: poor ad­her­ence to med­i­ca­tions or other ther­a­pies; sleep de­pri­va­tion; ac­tive med­i­cal ill­ness; ma­jor emo­tional stress; med­i­ca­tion ad­just­ments; fever re­lated to flu or other sick­ness; sub­stance abuse.

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