But the fact that, even though I am more familiar with and more likely to remember the American one, I still didn't realize it was this month until today? Probably not such a good sign. Because the whole subject is fairly personal in this house.
But does it really matter so much?
Well, lets see. There are nearly 2.5 million Americans with epilepsy. And more than 300,000 Canadians. Each day, an average of 42 Canadians learns that they have epilepsy and about 60% of new patients are young children and senior citizens.
Did you know that epilepsy is the second most common chronic neurological disorder affecting humankind, after chronic headache? Neither did I. Which you would think I would.
For many with epilepsy, the biggest problem they face, besides seizures, is society's negative attitudes about the condition.
The biggest handicap for persons with epilepsy is social stigma, because misunderstanding and prejudice are prevalent”, explains Dr. Elaine Wirrell, a pediatric neurologist at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. The conclusions of her recent study shows that adolescents perceive epilepsy as having greater physical and social impact than most other chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, Down’s syndrome, arthritis, migraine, leukemia and HIV infection. 149 teens from 13 to 18 year old, with and without chronic diseases, were interviewed. Epilepsy was perceived to have more adverse physical impact than all chronic llnesses except Down’s syndrome. Epilepsy was also perceived to have more negative social impact particularly on behaviour, honesty, popularity, ability at sports and fun. Overall, epilepsy was perceived to have a similar social impact to HIV infection and leukemia, but a significantly greater social impact than asthma, diabetes, arthritis and migraine.New cases of epilepsy are most common among children, especially during the first year of life. Another peak of new cases occurs in the elderly. And although treatment for many is a single medication, up to 30% of all epilepsy cases cannot be controlled with AE medications.
So what's available for those individuals?
Surgery, the Vagus Nerve Stimulator (much like a pacemaker for the brain) and the Ketogenic Diet (an extremely high fat, low carb diet which causes the body to switch its metabolism and burn fat for fuel instead of glucose) to name a few. Its much like Russian Roulette really though ... if the first drug fails, the chances of a second working are significantly lessened.
Beyond that? Yeah, Russian Roulette.
Although some treatment options have a better track record than others.
Ever wonder what its like to be a person with epilepsy or a family member? There's lots to read out there, take your pick.
How can you help? Well. there are always the usual ways. And while that's very much appreicated, there are other ways too. Like learning seizure first aid. And helping to raise awareness, which can be done in many different ways.
But maybe, just maybe, one of the most important ways is by showing some compassion and understanding
- the next time you see someone in public having a seizure
- the next time a potential employee discloses that they have epilepsy
- the next time your child comes home and tells you that there's a new little girl in his class but she acts kind of 'funny' and 'scary'. Educate yourself. And educate your child. Please.
Oh yeah, one more thing.