November is Epilepsy Awareness Month

Starting with diabetes, November is a very heavy month for awareness of detrimental diseases. We now, with the millions of other Americans effected, will put our focus on epilepsy. One in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point during their lifetime. It is one of the least understood of all the neurological diseases, yet it is the fourth most common. Epilepsy may occur as a result of a genetic disorder or an acquired brain injury, such as a trauma or stroke. During a seizure, a person experiences abnormal behavior, symptoms, and sensations, sometimes including loss of consciousness. During this month, many organizations join together to provide information about research, prevention, treatment and resources to fight epilepsy.

Epilepsy, unfortunately, has a long history of misunderstanding and stigmatism. Evidence of individuals suffering epilepsy in ancient history attributed it to spiritual or demonic possession. In fact, Hippocrates, the great Roman medical practitioner, shunned the notion that it was a supernatural phenomenon and believed that it derived from the brain, had hereditary aspects, and that how it presented itself in childhood also determined how it affected the rest of the individual’s life. Unfortunately, Hippocrates wasn’t believed until well into the 17th century, when the notion that it wasn’t demonic or spiritual possession finally subsided. But, the stigma associated with it continues to this day. One of the goals of National Epilepsy Awareness Month is to separate the disease from its historical and false reputations. Many countries still believe that it’s a sign of spiritual possession and, until 1980, individuals suffering from epilepsy weren’t allowed to marry in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), Sometimes we can prevent epilepsy.

  • Prevent traumatic brain injuries

Brain injuries are a frequent cause of epilepsy. Make sure you are riding safely in cars, using seatbelts, and on bikes, using helmets. If injury does happen, because avoiding such things are sometimes impossible, taking good care of the injury may help reduce the possibility of flaring up the disease.

  • Lower the chances of stroke and heart disease

These include eating well, exercising, and not smoking. These health actions may prevent epilepsy later in life.

  • Get vaccinated

Immunizations also lower your chances of contracting the disease as well.

  • Wash your hand and prepare food safely

An infection called cysticercosis is the most common cause of epilepsy world-wide. It is caused by a parasite and it is prevented through good hygiene and food preparation practices. Health screening and early treatment for cysticercosis can prevent epilepsy.

  • Stay healthy during your pregnancy

Some problems during pregnancy and childbirth can lead to epilepsy. Follow a prenatal care plan with your health care provider, like your doctor or nurse, to keep you and your baby healthy.

Epilepsy is usually treated by medications and in some cases by surgery, devices, or dietary changes. Many organizations stand with you and will help in any way they can (financially, psychologically, etc.) as you fight to normalize the return of your seizure if you do happen to be diagnosed.

In line with the “spreading awareness” theme, comment any tips surrounding epilepsy that you may have received and would like to share.

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