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13 misconceptions You Need to Know About Epilepsy

In this essay, we’ll look at 13 common misconceptions about epilepsy and dispel them. We want to know if epilepsy is contagious, if seizures hurt, and what treatment options are available.

Epilepsy affects about 1.2 percent of persons in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This translates to approximately 3.4 million people.

Epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Around 80% of them live in low- or middle-income nations.

Seizures are the most common sign of epilepsy in most people. These are electrical activity surges in the brain. The location of these seizures in the brain can determine how they affect the rest of the body.

People with epilepsy often have to deal with stigma in addition to controlling their seizures. As one study’s authors put it:

“Epilepsy’s stigmatizing aspect and associated psychological anguish have been reported to have a major influence on epilepsy patients’ quality of life.”

Giving people the information about epilepsy is one method to reduce stigma. We expose 13 epilepsy myths below. Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, has lent his expertise to us.

1. Anyone who has seizures has epilepsy

While epilepsy is the most well-known seizure disorder, it is far from the only one. Other disorders may have different mechanisms than epilepsy, which is caused by aberrant electrical activity in the brain.

Non-epileptic seizures can be caused by low blood sugar or difficulties with the heart’s function, for example.

Dissociative seizures, also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, are the most prevalent type of non-epileptic seizures (PNES).

PNES have been linked to a variety of things, including mental health issues and psychological trauma. It’s worth mentioning that an estimated 10% of patients with PNES also suffer from epileptic seizures.

2. Epileptics are unable to work.

This is a fabrication. People with epilepsy or seizures, according to Dr. Segil, “can work when their seizures are controlled by medicine.”

He also told us that he has “known fellow physicians with epilepsy.”

“Having a seizure disorder disqualifies people from working in only a few situations, including piloting and driving a truck.”

3. Epilepsy is a contagious disease.

This is an old misconception that still exists, especially in some parts of the world, but it is untrue: epilepsy is not communicable.

Despite the fact that epilepsy cannot be passed from person to person, determining the etiology is difficult. “The cause of the disease is still unclear in around 50% of cases globally,” according to the WHO.

Epilepsy can be caused by a variety of factors, including the following:

  • brain damage that occurred during or just after birth
  • brain malformation with genetic origins
  • severe head injuries
  • stroke
  • brain infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis

4. Epilepsy patients are emotionally unstable.

Epilepsy has a lot of negative connotations linked to it. The belief that people with the disease are more prone to be “emotionally unstable” is part of the stigma. This isn’t correct.

“Epilepsy patients are not emotionally unbalanced,” says the expert. Dr. Segil
“Having a seizure disorder and knowing that a seizure can happen at any time is disturbing, but most epilepsy patients are content [and] most epileptic cases can be readily treated with monotherapy, or just one seizure medicine.”

5. Epilepsy is a mental illness

This is likewise inaccurate, as it is related to the myth above — epilepsy is not a mental condition. According to the Epilepsy Foundation:

“The great majority of epilepsy patients have no cognitive or psychological issues.” Psychological difficulties in epilepsy are mostly limited to patients who have severe, uncontrolled seizures.”

6. During seizures, all persons with epilepsy lose consciousness and convulse.

During a seizure, not everyone with epilepsy loses consciousness and convulses. According to the Epilepsy Society, if you have epilepsy, you should:

“Jerking or shaking movements are not present in all seizures. […] Seizures come in a variety of forms, with more than 40 types. Seizures can take several forms. For example, someone could go ‘blank’ for a few seconds, or they could roam around and be completely perplexed.”

7. Force anything into someone’s mouth if they’re experiencing a seizure.

This is a harmful misconception. “This can harm teeth or the jaw,” the CDC warns.

8. If someone is suffering a seizure, it is best to restrain them.

This is yet another popular misconception. Dr. Segil noted, “Most seizures span 30–90 seconds, and there is no reason to detain a patient who is having a seizure.”

“An epileptiform seizure is distinguishable by the fact that it is not suppressible, meaning it does not cease when a person is held down.”

He did say, though, that “it is fair to lay someone on their side.” He also mentioned that photographing the seizure with a cell phone could aid a doctor in modifying the person’s seizure treatment.

9. Seizures are painful

Ictal pain, or discomfort experienced during a seizure, is uncommon. Ictal pain was experienced by only 0.9 percent of 5,133 patients who visited the Jefferson Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Philadelphia, PA, according to one study.

Some people, however, may experience pain following a seizure. This could be the result of a fall or injury during the seizure, or it could be the result of continuous muscle contractions.

A headache can occur before, during, or after a seizure in certain persons.

10. In epileptic patients, strobe lights always cause seizures.

When seeing strobing lights, only persons with photosensitive epilepsy are at danger of having a seizure.

Only 5% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy. Strobe lighting isn’t the only thing that can cause a seizure in these persons. They may also be triggered by other visual stimuli, such as moving patterns and forms.

11. Epilepsy sufferers should avoid becoming pregnant.

Despite the fact that this is not the case, Dr. Segil told MNT that doctors consider pregnancies in people who have seizures to be high-risk. This means they’ll see their obstetrician a few times more than people who don’t have seizures.

“During this time, their neurologists will be watching them more closely,” he explained.

“While some seizure drugs are not safe to take while pregnant, there will be many more in 2021 that are safe for both the mother and the developing baby.”

12. During a seizure, people frequently swallow their tongue.

This is a misconception that goes beyond epilepsy. In truth, swallowing one’s tongue is impossible under any conditions.

During a seizure, though, it’s possible that the person’s teeth will fracture or be damaged in some way. They may also bite their tongue or lips.

13. There are no effective therapies for epilepsy.

Thankfully, this is another myth. Although there is no cure for epilepsy, there are a number of therapies that can help.

Anti-epileptic medicines are effective in preventing seizures in many persons. According to the Epilepsy Society, once on the correct medicine, 7 out of 10 patients with epilepsy can cease having seizures.

Other treatments for people who don’t react to medicines include surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, and even dietary modifications.

Scientists are getting closer to finding a cure for epilepsy as they continue to research. The work is still going on, even if it will take some time.

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