March 26th, 2022 is Epilepsy Awareness Day.
There are about 3.4 million people with epilepsy nationwide: 3 million adults and 470,000 children who suffer with epilepsy. http://www.cdc.gov
It can be a debilitating chronic disorder that affects even the most mundane aspects of your life and can rob you of being able to do tasks that many of us take for granted.
I was diagnosed around 2008 with an unspecified seizure disorder, that took years to be able to control and has prohibited me from driving. Though I have not had tonic-clonic seizures in over a year, I still have absent seizures frequently; this means I have active epilepsy.
An adult aged 18 or older has active epilepsy if they report they have a history of doctor-diagnosed epilepsy or seizure disorder and:
- are currently taking meds to control it or
- had one or more seizures in the past year or both.
A child aged 17 or younger has active epilepsy if their parent of guardian reports:
- that a doctor of health care provider has ever told them they their child has epilepsy or seizure disorder, and
- their child currently has epilepsy or seizure disorder.
What is a Seizure?
It’s a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause changes in your behavior, movements or feelings and in levels of consciousness. http://www.maycoclinic.org/diseases
Seizure types vary by where in the brain they begin and how far they spread. Most last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. A seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes is a medical emergency.
Symptoms of a Seizure
These can range from mild to severe depending on the type of seizure. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:
- temporary confusion
- staring spell
- uncontrollable jerking movements of arms and legs
- loss of consciousness or awareness
- cognitive or emotional symptoms such as fear, anxiety or déjà vu.
Types of Seizures
These result in abnormal electrical activity in one area of the brain. These can happen with or without loss of consciousness. This is called Focal Seizures with Impaired Awareness and Focal Seizures without Loss of Consciousness.
These appear to involve all areas of the brain:
- Absence seizures (previously known as petit mal)
- Tonic Seizures
- Atonic Seizures
- Clonic Seizures
- Myoclonic Seizures
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures (previously known as grand mal)
What does a Seizure Feel Like?
Everyone has a different experience with their own specific seizure, however for me, when I experience an absence seizure I just blink out of existence for a few seconds. This is one of those reasons why it’s dangerous for me to drive. When I experience a tonic-clonic seizure it’s frightening and for me, I only have a brief second of awareness of what is going to happen- like when you are on the verge of falling asleep and you feel like you are falling and jerk awake. Except I am not conscious during these episodes and when I come back, I can be disoriented and almost always feel nauseous. You can read about Destiny’s Experience here.
Common Causes of Seizures
The most common causes of seizures is epilepsy, however, not every person who has a seizure has epilepsy. Some types of seizure disorder may be caused by genetic mutations and:
- High fever
- Lack of sleep
- Flashing lights, moving patterns or other visual stimulants
- Low blood sodium (hyponatremia)
- Medications, such as certain pain relievers, antidepressants or smoking cessation.
If you have Seizure disorder or Epilepsy, know that you are not alone. Seek out epilepsy support organizations to help you deal with the struggles of having epilepsy.