We’ve put together some quick FAQ’s about epilepsy.
We look like everybody else. You won’t be able to tell if a person has epilepsy unless they tell you, or they have a seizure.
Epilepsy affects 3-4% of the Australian population and is the fourth most common neurological disorder after stroke, migraine and Alzheimer's disease.
250, 000 people live with epilepsy in Australia, and 1 in 25 will be diagnosed with epilepsy in a lifetime. In comparison there are 1,500 people living with Motor Neuron Disease in Australia.
Anyone can be diagnosed with epilepsy, at any stage of their life. There are multiple causes for epilepsy, and it does not discriminate based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or nationality.
Often epilepsy can be over-simplified to being ‘just seizures’. (Seizures are bad! - there is nothing ‘just’ about them). Living with a chronic illness is multi-faceted and has complex implications for the individual that go far beyond seizures, medications, and doctors' appointments. These include lifestyle adjustments, development of co-morbidities, grief, and financial, psychological & social effects on the individual's life.
One of the most common misconceptions about epilepsy is that all epileptic seizures are convulsive. The fact is, there are over 40 different seizure types which present differently in each person diagnosed with epilepsy.
Seizure signs and symptoms vary greatly and include, but are not limited to: temporary confusion, staring, jerking movements, loss of consciousness or awareness, cognitive or emotional symptoms (such as fear), and yes, also convulsions.
Seizures are unpredictable and can occur at any time.
Seizure triggers are things that trigger a seizure in a person. Even if a person avoids their triggers and takes their medication, they can still have seizures.
Medications only work in 70% of cases, medication does not eliminate seizures.
Common lifestyle adjustments made by people with epilepsy include:
-giving up alcohol,
-having a sleep schedule,
-never swimming or bathing alone,
-avoiding certain foods (that are either seizure triggers or interrupt medication),
-re-assessing career choices,
-avoiding triggers which include: heat, stress, sleep deprivation, blood sugar fluctuations, alcohol, dehydration and many more,
-increased reliance on family and friends,
-planning your life around epilepsy (no more spontaneity), and
-increased ‘rest’ time.