Epilepsy Triggers Causes Myths

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world. According to a study published by the World Health Organization in 2009, epilepsy affects approximately 50 million people worldwide. In the past, people with epilepsy have been alienated because of their condition — in some countries, they still are. Up until the 20th century, some U.S. states prohibited people with epilepsy from marrying or having children.

Although we now have a much better understanding of the disorder, there are still a number of myths about epilepsy perpetuated today. This article clears up some of the most common myths about epilepsy.

Myth #1: Seizures Always Involve Convulsions

Epilepsy is not the same for everyone. Many people who experience seizures do not pass out or experience convulsions at all. Instead, epilepsy symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Staring into space
  • Strange sensations.

A seizure is characterized by abnormally rapid firing of the neurons in the brain, which — depending on where the brain is affected — can cause seizures to present in different ways.

Myth #2: Epilepsy Is Always Inherited

This is one of the most common myths about epilepsy. Although some types of epilepsy tend to run in families, genetic inheritance is only one of the many factors that can cause epilepsy.

Having a family history of epilepsy appears to make an individual more susceptible to having seizures, but their risk of developing epilepsy is still quite low. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America®, the risk of seizures in children of parents with epilepsy is only 4 to 8 percent (as opposed to 1 percent for the general population without a family history of the disease).

Myth #3: Epilepsy Symptoms Last a Lifetime

Seizures in children often disappear when the child grows up. Approximately 70 percent of people with epilepsy are expected to enter remission (generally defined as being seizure free for five years or more on medication). Most of these individuals are expected to remain free from epilepsy symptoms when they stop taking medication.

Myth #4: Seizures Always Cause Brain Damage

Seizures rarely cause brain damage, unless an individual experiences prolonged seizures or several seizures in quick succession. This condition is called “status epilepticus.”

Seizures can affect cognitive abilities, such as memory and thought patterns. The effects can be temporary or permanent, This can present additional challenges for people with epilepsy, but does not signify brain damage or below-average intelligence.

Myth #5: People Can Swallow Their Tongue During a Seizure

It’s physically impossible for someone to swallow their tongue. In fact, putting a spoon or anything else into someone’s mouth while they’re having a seizure could harm them.

Myth #6: People with Epilepsy Can’t Lead a Normal Life

This is probably one of the most dangerous myths about epilepsy. If people with epilepsy believe they can’t succeed in life because of their disorder, they will have difficulty overcoming the challenges their disorder brings. Children are especially susceptible to being influenced by the reactions of others to their disorder. Many children and adults with epilepsy struggle with low self-esteem as a result of the stigma and alienation attached to their disorder.

Most people are able to live a normal life and control their seizures with medication or some other form of treatment. Epilepsy may sometimes mean living with some limitations (such as being unable to drive), but it need not be a barrier to leading a full, successful life.

Resources

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/faqs2.asp#a2

Epilepsy Canada Staff. (n.d.) Epilepsy. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.ca/eng/content/sheet.html

Epilepsy.com Staff. (n.d.). Facts and myths. Retrieved March 16, 2010 from http://www.epilepsy.com/101/ep101_facts

World Health Organization. (2009). Epilepsy. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs999/en/index.html