Chances are that you have seen something—a movie, video game, or amusement park ride—that has an epilepsy warning attached to it. Epilepsy is a disorder within the brain that causes the electric system to cause seizures. These seizures are marked by a change in the ability of the person to move and respond to stimuli appropriately; they may also lose consciousness. These episodes can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
More Facts about Epilepsy
In Canada, it’s estimated that 0.6 percent of the population is diagnosed with epilepsy, with an average of 42 people learning they have epilepsy every single day. In a majority of cases, the cause of the epileptic seizures in unknown, but in the remainder, these are the most common causes:
- Brain tumors
- Head trauma
- Injury or systemic illness of the mother during her pregnancy
- Complications in delivery
- Infections like meningitis and viral encephalitis
- Alcohol poisoning
The majority of those diagnosed with epilepsy are young children and senior citizens. About half of the children diagnosed with epilepsy will grow out of the disorder and stop having seizures. However, if their condition is severe and prolonged, parents of children with epilepsy can apply for a child disability tax credit. If the condition continues, the children can apply for a disability tax credit for themselves when they become of age. Find out more about Disability Tax Credit for Children.
Assistance and Treatment for Epilepsy
Epilepsy is usually a long-term condition that has to be monitored by physicians throughout your life. There are three main courses of treatment for a person with epilepsy:
- Prescription drugs: Antiepileptic drugs and anticonvulsant drugs are commonly prescribed. These drugs only work once they reach and maintain an appropriate blood concentration. Consistent and correct application of these medications can make a significant difference in the life of a person with epilepsy.
- Special diet regimen: Certain people have seizures as a reaction to something they eat or drink. Isolating these foods and beverages and then avoiding them can reduce the number of seizures a person experiences.
- Surgery: This is usually an option that is only used when absolutely necessary. Neurosurgery comes with risks, but can also greatly benefit a person with epilepsy.
Triggers for Epilepsy
Remember those trigger warnings in the first paragraph? Many people with epilepsy experience more seizures when exposed to certain environmental factors such as:
- Lack of sleep
- Emotions and anxiety
- Poor nutrition
- Flickering lights
- Heat and humidity
Many people with epilepsy live relatively normal lives, and it is a fairly common disorder in Canada. However, if people with epilepsy have to drastically change their lives or the lives of their children in order to avoid and minimize seizures, they may receive a Canadian disability tax credit. This is designed to help supplement the income of those who suffer from severe and prolonged impairment in mental or physical functions. Epilepsy, in severe cases, can fall under these categories.
Epilepsy has some genetic qualities, so a child with a parent who suffers from epilepsy is more likely to suffer from seizures as well. Even if this is not the case, having one family member with epilepsy can greatly impact the entire family. They must work together to help avoid triggers, and they need to know how to respond in the event of a seizure.
Best practices for helping a family member when they are having a seizure are:
- Roll the person onto one side
- Place a pillow / soft item under the person’s head if possible
- Do not attempt to restrain the person
- Do not attempt to put anything into the person’s mouth
- Be aware of “typical” seizure behavior for that person
- Call proper emergency services if the seizure is prolonged
Epilepsy is a manageable disorder in most cases, but there are some extreme causes that require a complete lifestyle upheaval to accommodate the seizures. When this happens, there are resources out there for you, including the non-profit organization “Epilepsy Canada”.
For more information: BC Epilepsy Society