Epilepsy – Know the Facts, Not the Fiction

Monday, March 26, 2012 9:10 AM

EpilepsyNearly one in 100 people are affected by epilepsy, and yet there are many common misunderstandings about this condition. Epilepsy by definition is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. A single seizure episode does not constitute epilepsy.

In recognition of Purple Day—a day dedicated to increase awareness about epilepsy—Lawrence Bernstein, MD, Neurologist at NorthShore, identifies some of the common misconceptions about epilepsy:

  • People with epilepsy cannot drive.
    True and False. A person suffering from a seizure when driving may put themselves and others at risk. Whether or not someone can drive will depend on state and local laws, as well as physician recommendations. In many cases, once someone has stabilized their condition (either through medication or another method) they may be allowed to resume driving. The decision to drive or not is often a personal decision made by the individual, family and healthcare professional.
  • People with epilepsy should not have children.
    False. While it is important for epileptic women to plan in advance and have a discussion with a neurologist, there is no reason why women cannot have children. In fact, the majority of pregnancies in epileptic women are uneventful.
  • Children with epilepsy never outgrow it.
    False. Epilepsy is not a lifelong condition. Many children who are on medications for epilepsy and remain seizure-free for two to four years can be tapered off their medication. While medications will not eliminate the existence of epilepsy for everyone, it’s advisable to coordinate best treatment options with your pediatric neurologist.
  • All epilepsy is inherited.
    False. While a family history of epilepsy may increase the risk for developing the condition, it is not the only factor and the risk is often very low.
  • Epilepsy is contagious.
    False. This condition cannot be spread or passed on to others. More than 70 percent of epilepsy cases are not linked to a specific cause. Frequent risk factors for developing epilepsy include: age, previous injury to the brain, stroke, and infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • If medications do not work there is no useful treatment.
    False. Medication is one treatment option for epilepsy. Other useful treatments include: surgery, nerve and brain stimulation, and diet.

What other misconceptions do you have about epilepsy? Are there other questions you have about this condition?

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