In November, Epilepsy Awareness Month highlights the challenges faced by patients with epilepsy, which is the fourth most-common neurological disease, behind migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, one in every 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. While it can appear at any time, the condition is more likely to affect younger children and older adults.
Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy, and they are defined by periods of uncontrolled electrical activity within the brain. Some seizures are hardly noticeable, while others are entirely disabling and can result in a complete loss of physical control. The effects of a seizure vary, given that anything the brain does normally can also occur during a seizure. Perhaps the scariest part is that seizures can come at any time, disrupting the lives of patients – especially as it relates to work or driving.
For instance, patients are encouraged to take showers instead of baths, as drowning can occur in only a few inches of water, and they are advised to take extra precautions when navigating busy streets or public transportation systems. A rare – but real – risk for epilepsy patients is called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which is not caused by seizure-related accidents and instead thought to be the result of irregular heartbeat or breathing patterns. However, the actual cause of death in these instances is unknown.