Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. So, for a moment, let’s shed some light on this chronic illness. Anyone can develop Epilepsy. No one is immune. But what exactly is it? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that effects the nervous system. It is also known as a seizure disorder. The diagnosis usually comes after an individual has had two or more seizures. These seizures are caused by electrical disturbances within the brain. Sometimes, they are the result of a brain injury. Other times, they can be caused by other medical conditions, i.e. stroke, brain tumors, meningitis, AIDs, etc. But for many patients, the cause of Epilepsy is unknown. 

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Last year, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of Americans living with Epilepsy had reached an all-time high — approximately 3.4M! Globally, over 60M live with the illness. 

There are many types of seizures, so symptoms and treatment can vary widely. But every patient with Epilepsy can benefit from awareness. There are, unfortunately, many stigmas that have been [and still are] attached to this illness. This misinformation can lead to harassment, bullying, even discrimination. Let’s change that!

An Epilepsy patient’s intelligence should never be underestimated, because of their condition. In fact, many world leaders … high achievers … influential advocates … inspiring athletes … and successful artists … have lived with seizures, i.e. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Socrates, Michelangelo, Presidents James Madison and Theodore Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, George Gershwin, Charles Dickens, Margaux Hemingway, Florence Griffith Joyner, Danny Glover, Chief Justice John Roberts, etc.

As with any chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc., patients must respect their condition. They should take their medication as directed and maintain regular visits with their doctor. Epilepsy is a diagnosis. It is treatable. But it does not define who the individual is, or their abilities. Most people with Epilepsy lead normal lives. They go to school, college, build careers, raise families, etc. They have hobbies and enjoy sports.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. The more you know, the better that you can understand. You can spread the word. And, most importantly, you can change your view as well as the views of others!

 

References:

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0810-epilepsy-prevalence.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093

https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-epilepsy/celebrity-lists

http://www.edmontonepilepsy.org/epilepsy/living/famous.html

https://epilepsynewstoday.com/2016/09/09/boy-with-epilepsy-scores-a-grade-advanced-mathematics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14728909

http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/epilepsy/how-does-epilepsy-affect-daily-life/

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Do You Need That?

When you have a Chronic illness, you strive to manage it. The better your illness is managed, the better your health actually becomes. And better health equates to the best quality of life. Are you with me? Better. Better. Better. Best!

Inevitably, this management or maintenance leads to a lot of questions. Should we try this medicine? Perhaps, if we tried that supplement? Or maybe, we ought to consider a vaccine? We are literally bombarded with ads — marketing medications, vaccines, supplements, etc. They’re everywhere, i.e. television, the internet, magazines, newspapers, etc. But does that mean we actually need the product? Ask your doctor. You might be surprised by his or her answer!

Typically, if you have a Chronic illness, you are more vulnerable than an individual who is in excellent health. That doesn’t mean that you need anything and everything available. It means that your needs are based upon your age, health issues, etc. So, again, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Take the guess-work and anxiety, out of the equation.

 

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Last Fall, I was stricken with a case of shingles. It was horrendous — far worse than the chickenpox that I remember having in second grade. From the blisters to the nerve pain (that took nearly 3 months to subside), it was a brutal experience. Need I say, I became very focused on getting the vaccine. But, when I discussed it with my doctor, I was told to wait a year (at least). Having shingles allowed my body’s immune system to develop a memory of the exposure. In other words, it boosted my immunity against the virus. Obviously, this protection doesn’t last forever. And compromised immune systems are more vulnerable. Still, after talking to my doctor, I felt relieved to know that my body has a measure of protection against this virus. So, I’m planning on my annual flu shot instead. 

Supplements can be used effectively and abused. None of us need the latter. The American Medical Association recommends a multivitamin supplement for all adults. Are you taking one, daily? As for additional supplements, talk to your doctor. Some can be helpful, depending upon your medical history and health. Others can possibly do more harm than good. A study, published in The New England Medical Journal in 2015, found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for over 22K emergency department or ED visits every year. And approximately 10% of these cases resulted in admission to the hospital!

Call me old fashioned, but … prescription medications just aren’t meant to marketed like shampoo to the general public. Anyone who is chronically ill is a sometimes desperate and vulnerable consumer. Yet, this is the reality that we now live in. If you feel that your current medication isn’t working well, discuss this with your doctor. Talk about your options. Please, don’t walk into his or her office with a specific ad or medication in mind. What may work for some, may be totally wrong for you. And, by all means, take your prescribed medication as it is directed. Many patients take unnecessary risks with medications. It is harmful — even deadly.

All of which brings us back to the initial question that entitles this piece: Do you need that? Let your doctor, not a marketing campaign or your BFF, decide!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/886087?src=par_cdc_stm_mscpedt&faf=1

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/news/20120605/risk-shingles-recurrence-is-low

http://www.mreassociates.org/pages/ama_speaks_out.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/harmful-effects-of-supplements-can-send-you-to-the-emergency-department-201510158434

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/how-can-prescription-drug-misuse-be-prevented

https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed/etools/managing-pain-patients-who-abuse-prescription-drugs