Everyone has probably heard of someone who ‘’sees stars,’’ or ‘’shakes a lot,’’ when they faint. These people are not epileptic because only people with epilepsy have seizures. The condition is also often referred to as a seizure disorder and affects over 50 million people worldwide (World Health Organization – WHO).
Epilepsy can develop for many reasons, but usually, it starts in childhood or adolescence. Not all cases are the same, though – there are many different types of epilepsy. Some forms are known to run in families, while others seem to be related to head injury or stroke. However, sometimes doctors just don’t know what causes epilepsy.
Did you know?
- Justin Fields, the American football quarterback, unveiled secrets about his incurable disease. During the draft process, Fields announced that he had developed epilepsy years earlier and was treating it through medication, news that resonated within the epilepsy community more strongly than it did within the sports world (complete story here).
- John Travolta’s son died because of epilepsy. Postmortem findings suggest that a seizure caused the death of 16-year-old John Travolta’s son in the Bahamas over the weekend (via the guardian).
- Not sure how Cameron Boyce died? Again the culprit was epilepsy. Star of the Descendants franchise, Boyce died at the age of 20 on July 6, 2019. His death brought attention to the problem of Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Epilepsy (SUDEP). (you can read more at epsyhealth)
Most Common Myths About Epilepsy
There are plenty of myths about epilepsy which makes it even more stigmatized and misunderstood than it already is. There are many things you should know about the condition in order to help someone who is having a seizure or just to better understand them.
Epilepsy can be a scary thing. For many people, hearing the word “epilepsy” conjures up images of someone having a seizure, falling to the ground, foaming at the mouth, and then going into a coma.
However, this is not always right. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
People with epilepsy may experience seizures that affect only part of the body or even one that causes no movement at all. While some people have only one seizure in their lifetime, others have recurring seizures throughout their life.
For some people, epilepsy can be life-threatening, while for others, it can interfere with simple daily activities like driving a car or swimming alone.
There are many myths and misconceptions associated with epilepsy. Below are some common Epilepsy myths:
Myth 1: You can catch epilepsy from someone who has it
Epilepsy is not a communicable disease. It’s not contagious, and you can’t catch it from someone who has it.
Myth 2: People with epilepsy are prone to violence
Some people believe that individuals with epilepsy are violent or unpredictable, but there’s no evidence of this. In fact, emotional problems are more likely to occur in people with epilepsy as a result of the condition itself or the stigma that surrounds it.
Myth 3: Epilepsy only affects children
While it’s true that many children develop epilepsy, more than two-thirds of people diagnosed with epilepsy were adults before they were diagnosed. Some adults have had the condition since childhood and simply never received a diagnosis.
Myth 4: People with epilepsy have seizures all the time
Many people with epilepsy experience seizures infrequently. Most seizures last less than five minutes, and many people who experience them will only have one during their entire lifetime. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy.
Myth 5: People with epilepsy are mentally ill
Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the central nervous system and causes recurrent seizures, but it does not affect a person’s intelligence. Mental illness, on the other hand, refers to disorders that affect mood and behaviors.
There is an association between epilepsy and mental illness; however, it can be explained by emotional reactions to having epilepsy as well as by some antiseizure medications, which can cause psychiatric side effects such as depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of epilepsy can vary depending on what type of seizures the person has. Not everyone with epilepsy will have all possible symptoms. For example, some people don’t even realize they have epilepsy until they get their first seizure. Some varieties only cause convulsions, while others involve stopping breathing for short periods, fainting, or loss of consciousness.
Seizures usually originate in one area of the brain and then spread to other parts, which cause involuntary body movements and changes in behavior (Epilepsy).
One seizure may not cause any problems, but if a child has many seizures, it can affect their ability to learn and become more difficult for them in daily life.
Generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) — It is the most common type of epilepsy. It causes convulsions and loss of consciousness.
This is one type of epilepsy where people often fall down during seizures. This form also usually involves loss of bladder or bowel control during or after seizures, which can be particularly mortifying (Epilepsy).
Focal Tonic-Clonic — This type typically affects older children and adolescents. These types are more likely to have just one type of seizure, which usually results in losing consciousness or fainting.
Absence (or petit mal) — While it is not common to see this form of epilepsy at such a young age, some children experience small seizures that can also cause loss of memory. Seizures usually last only 3-5 seconds, and the child will often go back to what they were doing before without knowing anything happened (Epilepsy).
Atonic (or drop attacks) — Sometimes called “drop seizures,” these usually happen when someone is standing or sitting up and suddenly loses muscle control and falls down.
They may appear with certain types of focal seizures, but most often, they involve generalized seizures. These types of seizures typically don’t cause loss of consciousness or convulsions.
Myoclonic — These seizures may involve body jerks, twitches, and sometimes spasms.
Absence — As with focal epilepsy, some children experience small seizures that can also cause loss of memory. Seizures usually last only 3-5 seconds, and the child will often go back to what they were doing before without knowing anything happened (Epilepsy).
Tonic — This type of seizure is more likely to cause stiffening and straightening of limbs (Epilepsy). Some people lose bladder or bowel control during or after seizures, which can be particularly mortifying (Epilepsy).
Focal seizures — These are more common in children than they are in adults but may change over time. This form of epilepsy is often characterized by staring spells with little body movement, which can lead to self-injury because the child doesn’t realize their surroundings.
This type of seizure usually lasts only a few seconds before the person returns to normal activity. They will not remember these episodes unless someone points them out afterward (Epilepsy).
There’s no cure for epilepsy, but it is possible to control seizures using medications if the disorder has been diagnosed correctly. Getting an accurate diagnosis can be difficult, though, because there are so many types of epilepsy, and its symptoms can look like other conditions (WebMD).