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Epilepsy & Medical Alert IDs
Epilepsy is a fairly common neurological condition that affects 0.5% to 1% of the population. In the United States, around 2.5 million people suffer from some form of epilepsy, and there are nearly 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year (about 45,000 of them will be children under the age of 15). Some studies suggest that about 9% of Americans will have at least one seizure at some point in their lives, but a person isn’t diagnosed as an epileptic until he or she has experienced two or more seizures.
Epilepsy can be controlled with medication for about 80% of those with the disorder, but not cured. In those cases where medicinal control is not possible, surgery, neuostimulation, or dietary changes may be attempted.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is the result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It is a disorder in which the electrical signals that are sent by the brain cells become disturbed or abnormal, resulting in seizures. Depending on the type of epilepsy, these disrupted signals can occur in specific parts of the brain, or be a generalized phenomenon.
In about half of the cases of epilepsy, there is no identifiable cause for the condition. However, there are a range of factors that can influence whether or not a person experiences this disorder, including:
- Genetics – Some types of epilepsy are directly tied to genetics. If there is a history of it in the family, a person may be predisposed to the condition, making them more sensitive to the things that cause seizures.
- Head Injuries and Conditions – A traumatic injury to the head can cause epilepsy. Brain tumors, strokes, and other damage to the brain can also lead to epilepsy.
- Diseases – There are some infectious diseases, like viral encephalitis and meningitis, that can cause epilepsy.
- Prenatal Condition – There are several potential problems that could damage the brain of a developing baby, which could result in this condition.
There are also several factors that may increase your risk of epilepsy. These risk factors include (but are not limited to):
- Age – Those in early childhood or above the age of 60 are the most at risk, but the condition can still occur at any age.
- Stroke/Vascular Diseases – Strokes and some vascular diseases can damage the brain, which can lead to epilepsy.
- Childhood Conditions – If a person experienced high fevers as a child, they may experience seizures. However, this does not necessarily lead directly to epilepsy, but it is a contributing risk factor if other conditions exist.
- Dementia – This condition can increase the risk of epilepsy in adults.
How is Epilepsy Diagnosed?
Some research suggests that about 1 in every 100 people in the United States may experience an unprovoked seizure once in their life. However, a single seizure is not considered an indicator in and of itself. It requires at least two unprovoked seizures for a more accurate diagnosis.
If a person shows some of these symptoms, doctors may use a range of tests to determine if a person is epileptic or experiencing seizures for other reasons. These tests include:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – This is the most common test that doctors use. They attach electrodes to the scalp which will record brain activity. This is an effective approach because epilepsy causes changes in normal brain wave patterns, even if the patient is not currently experiencing a seizure.
- Blood Tests – It’s possible that doctors can find infections, genetic conditions or other disorders in the blood that will indicate whether or not a patient is suffering from epilepsy.
- Neurological Tests – Behavior, mental functions, and motor skills may help a doctor diagnose the condition.
Not All Seizures Are the Same
There are different types of seizures associated with epilepsy, and patients may experience a variety of symptoms when they occur. In some cases, a person suffering a seizure may simply stare blankly ahead for a few seconds, while others will fall into violently twitching their arms and legs. This is also why the disorder is not based solely on the seizures (especially when there are non-epileptic seizures that could be caused by a range of psychological issues).
Most of the time, though, a patient will experience the same type of seizure each time it happens, so doctors can record the symptoms each time it happens and start to determine how to control the problem.
There are basically two different types, focal seizures (those that happen as a result of abnormal activity in one area of the brain) and generalized seizures (those that happen because of the activity across the entire brain). Even within these two categories, though, there are different types of seizures.
- Discognitive seizures – These may cause the patient to lose awareness for a time, resulting in staring and purposeless movements. They often alter consciousness and awareness of surroundings.
- Simple focal seizures – While these seizures don’t cause a loss of consciousness, they can affect the way things look smell, feel, sound, and taste (this includes sensory problems like dizziness and flashing lights). The can also cause twitching and spasms of different body parts.
- Absence seizures – Sometimes called petit mal seizures, are very brief and are sometimes misdiagnosed as simple inattentiveness because they usually involve staring at nothing and loss of awareness.
- Myoclonic seizures – These are characterized by sudden-but-brief twitching of muscles or muscle groups.
- Clonic seizures – Involuntary, rhythmic muscular contractions or jerky muscle movements, usually in the face, neck and arms.
- Tonic seizures – A sudden stiffening of the muscles, usually in the back arms and legs.
- Tonic-clonic seizures – Also referred to as grand mal seizures, these are what people most commonly associate with epilepsy, and result in loss of consciousness, shaking, body stiffening, and biting the tongue.
- Atonic seizures – Sometimes referred to as drop seizures or drop attacks because they involve a loss of muscle control that leads to falling.
Understanding All the Risks
Even small seizures are potentially dangerous because they result in many harmful situations. The most obvious risk is simply from falling. Many injuries occur when someone suffers a seizure and falls to the ground, bouncing off all and sundry obstacles in the way. While this is obviously inconvenient and often painful, there are worse risks, depending on what the person is doing.
Drowning, for example, is a serious risk, and studies say that someone with epilepsy is 15 to 19 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing because of the possibility of having a seizure in the water. Car accidents are another risk, because even the smallest seizure could lead to a huge traffic accident.
There are also dangers for women who are pregnant if they have epilepsy – whether from the seizure or the anti-epileptic medications. However, most epileptic women who become pregnant can have a healthy baby – as long as they speak to their doctor first and carefully monitor the entire pregnancy.
How Is Epilepsy Treated?
Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, proper treatment can start. It’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible, because even mild seizures can be dangerous if they happen during certain activities.
Most seizures are controlled through drug therapy, although certain diets may also improve the treatment. Surgery is only used as an option when the medications are lifestyle changes aren’t working. Either way, the prescribed treatment will be based on factors that include frequency and severity of the seizures, overall health, age, whether the patient is pregnant, and other parts of their medical history.
Living with Epilepsy
Living with epilepsy requires that you seek help as soon as it becomes clear that seizures could risk your health and safety or that of others. There are medications and treatments that will help you deal with the symptoms of epilepsy. The earlier you get treatment, the easier it will be to deal with the disorder and maintain a healthy and positive outlook.
It is also important to be proactive about the situation, and that means preparing your home for any potential problem. This means placing pads on furniture with sharp corners and covering the floor with soft carpet and padding. Make sure there are no space heaters that can easily tip over and that safety covers are over the fireplace.
The bathroom doors should always open outward, so they can be opened in case you fall in front of them. If you take baths, make sure you keep the water in the tub at a low, safe level so you can’t possibly drown. In the kitchen, use the back burners of the stove so you won’t be burned in a fall, and avoid using large, sharp knives if possible.
Helping Others Understand
There’s no reason to try and live with epilepsy on your own. There are many people and professionals who can help you control the condition. It is, however, important to let as many people as possible know about your situation and educate them on what it means to have epilepsy and how they can help.
What if someone were to find you in the middle of a seizure? Would they know what to do? Would they think it was something else completely?
You can literally keep important medical information on hand with an epilepsy ID bracelet. In case of disorientation or unconsciousness during a severe seizure, N-Style ID’s epilepsy medical ID alert bracelets speak for patients who cannot speak for themselves. This kind of identification is especially important for young children, who may not understand their own condition.
Medical professionals are trained to look for this information when they arrive on the scene, and you can quickly provide critical information – like identifying the disorder and listing any current medications and allergies – so they can immediately start providing the appropriate care.
N-Style ID’s wide selection of epilepsy bracelets and interchangeable medical ID tags are a simple way to increase the safety for those who suffer from this disorder. Those who are prone to more severe seizures may want to check out the epilepsy medical bracelets that are compatible with N-Style ID’s medical ID tags, which are slightly larger and more visible. These tags can be paired with titanium or stainless steel epilepsy medical bracelets. N-Style ID’s children’s lines include ultra light and jelly bracelets, both of which are durable, water resistant and available in a variety of colors.