National Epilepsy Awareness Month

purpleribbonSince it is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, I asked my niece, Jessica, to provide me with some information about epilepsy, and I found her article very informative.

This article was originally printed in
“The Shavings” Calumet College of St. Joseph’s school newspaper in November of 2006,
written by Jessica Lund.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.  Currently, epilepsy affects over 2.5 million people worldwide.  This month marks the 39th anniversary of this occasion.

Epilepsy Awareness Month is personally important to me because I was diagnosed with epilepsy in December 2003.  Up until I was diagnosed, I had no clue what the disease was or how it was treated.

I think it is beneficial to educate people on this disorder because, in some cases, it can be contracted later in life.  You aren’t born with it.

Epilepsy isn’t a mental illness.  It’s due to abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain.  People who have seizures can go through long periods of time in which the electrical activity in the brain is normal and seizures do not occur.

During a seizure, a person may feel, think, act or even move differently.  This is due to the fact that a seizure can temporarily disturb parts of the brain’s functions, including consciousness, memory and even movement.  Seizures can be caused by brain tumors, head injuries, alcohol abuse, family history or problems during birth.  If seizures occur often and need to be controlled with anti-seizure medication, then usually one is put under numerous tests to determine if they are epileptic.

The many effects seizures cause are body tremors, blank-staring, brief unconsciousness, the biting of one’s tongue, or loss of bladder control.  Usually a person can be pulled out of a seizure within minutes.  Either talking to the victim or laying them down are the first things you should do in order to pull an epileptic out of a seizure spell.

Epilepsy goes back to the year 400 B.C.  The Greek doctor Hippocrates wrote the first known book on the disorder.  In the Bible, epilepsy is referred to as the “scared disease”.  During the Middle Ages, people thought of epileptics as demonic and often tried to kill them by means of saving them.  Thus began the association of epilepsy and witchcraft.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists began to discover treatments by medication, which is the leading source of controlling seizure activity for epileptics.  I take about 2500 milligrams of medication per day to control my seizures.  I’m one of the lucky ones that have only suffered seizures at night while sleeping.  I think I’d live with more fear if my seizures could occur at any given time of the day.  Thanks to my medication, I can go about three months without suffereing a seizure.

Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Julius Caesar, Thomas Edison, Napoleon, and Leonardo da Vinci, were among the famous people diagnosed with epilepsy.  When looking over that list, I always think that I’m in good company.  After all Van Gogh is my favorite artist of all time.

For more information on epilepsy or how to support Epilepsy Awareness Month, go to www.epilepsyfoundation.org …Because if we are better educated on topics such as these, then maybe one day we can find a cure.

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