November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, which has been commemorated since 1969 by the Epilepsy Foundation as a means of spreading vital information and awareness of the neurological disorder. Even though 3.4 million Americans and their families are affected by epilepsy in the United States, much about the disorder is still unknown to many people. In honor of National Epilepsy Awareness Month, here are three must-know facts about epilepsy.
Epilepsy is more common than you think
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have repeated seizures. Odds are, you probably know someone with epilepsy, whether it’s a family member, friend or someone at work. In 2015, the CDC reported that 3 million adults and 470,000 children in the United States suffer from epilepsy. That number is roughly equal to the population of Rhode Island or Delaware.
People with epilepsy can live regular and fulfilling lives
Despite the obstacles that come with an epilepsy disorder, people with epilepsy can still lead normal and full lives. Although those with epilepsy can find it difficult to find jobs or go to school on a normal schedule, there are many who live with epilepsy while working successfully in government, sports, medicine, education and a variety of other fields. With proper treatment and support, epilepsy can be managed and does not have to get in the way of your personal or professional goals.
Not all seizures are the same
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure in their lifetime. While the common image associated with seizures is someone convulsing uncontrollably on the floor, that is just one type of seizure. There are a variety of seizure types, and they are grouped into two main categories.
Generalized seizures — affect both sides of the brain
- Absence seizures. These seizures are characterized by a person staring absently into space or blinking rapidly for a few seconds.
- Tonic-clonic seizures. These seizures can cause someone to cry out, fall to the ground, lose consciousness, or experience sudden muscle spasms.
Focal seizures — affect only one part of the brain
- Simple focal seizures. These seizures affect a small portion of the brain and cause someone to twitch or experience a change in taste or smell.
- Complex focal seizures. These seizures can result in someone not being able to respond to questions or directions for a few minutes, as if they are in a daze.
- Secondary generalized seizures. This type of seizure starts in one part of the brain and then spreads to the rest of the brain.
For more information on epilepsy, seizure prevention and Epilepsy Awareness Month, visit epilepsy.com.