epilepsy_ribbonOver 50 million people are affected by epilepsy—a chronic brain disorder, also known as seizure disorder. Epileptic seizures occur when there's abnormal brain cell activity and a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons. People of all ages can experience seizures, and depending on the area of the brain impacted, seizures can produce any number of behaviors such as full body convulsions to blank staring. Epilepsy can also produce memory problems, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

Doctors don’t always know the cause of a person’s epilepsy, but they can usually explain where in the brain the seizure is happening, and will often use the following terms:

  • Partial-onset. This term is used if the seizure is caused by a small, specific part of the brain that’s not working properly.
  • Generalized. This term is used if the seizure is caused by widespread electrical “misfirings” of both sides of the brain at the same time.

People who suffer from epilepsy may apply for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). When doing so, they’ll need to prove they meet the criteria listed for this condition in the Social Security Blue Book Listing of Impairments under the Neurological section (11.00). Because the application process can be complex and complicated, and epilepsy is a difficult condition to get benefit approval for, it’s helpful to hire a disability attorney to assist you.

Important Facts About Epilepsy

There are ongoing myths and misconceptions about epilepsy, so it’s important to know the facts if you suffer from this condition or if a loved one or friend was recently diagnosed. Here's critical information about seizure disorder:

  1. Seizures have specific phases. In the beginning phase, often referred to as the aura, a person may experience signs that a seizure is forthcoming, including:
    • Odd smells or tastes
    • Strange sounds
    • Numbness, tingling, or feelings of electricity in the body
    • Headaches
    • Lightheadedness
    • Feeling fuzzy or confused

In the middle phase, the person will experience the actual seizure. And in the end phase—also called the postictal phase—the brain recovers. This can take from seconds to hours, and the person may feel disoriented or experience memory loss during this time.  

  1. Epilepsy isn't contagious, and a person who experiences seizure disorder cannot give it to someone else. This misconception began in the 19th century when people with severe epilepsy were cared for in asylums and kept separate from other patients.
  2. A person with epilepsy cannot swallow his tongue during a seizure. While this has been a persistent myth, it's nearly impossible for this to occur. There's a small piece of tissue in the mouth called the frenulum linguae located under the tongue and behind the teeth. This piece of tissue keeps the tongue in place during a seizure. However, it's possible for a person to bite his tongue when a seizure occurs.
  3. Another long-standing myth is that something should be placed into a person’s mouth if he’s having a seizure. Doing so could actually harm or injure that person. The best action is to roll the person to one side, keep him away from nearby objects, and let the seizure occur.
  4. People with epilepsy aren't emotionally unstable or mentally ill. A seizure disorder is a physical problem, not a mental one, and there's often no specific, attributable cause.

We Can Help With Your Epilepsy Claim

If you suffer from epilepsy and want to apply for Social Security disability, we can help. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law offer skilled legal advice to assist you in getting the benefits you deserve. We’ll help you obtain the proper documentation and ensure that all paperwork is filled accurately. And if your claim is denied, we’ll help you file an appeal. Contact us today at (402) 933-5405 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation. 



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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