epilepsy_factsEpilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is a condition of the central nervous system. Disruptions in the brain’s nerve cell activity cause seizures often characterized by unusual behavior and sometimes unconsciousness. There are many misconceptions and myths about epilepsy that create confusion and cause people who suffer from it to have many questions.

Questions About Epilepsy

As with any disorder, people who suffer a medical condition such as epilepsy have an abundance of information about their disorder available to them through the internet. However, some of that information is inaccurate, and some myths have prevailed over time that provide false data about the nature of this condition and the fears that surround it.

Here are some clarifying answers to frequently asked questions about epilepsy:

  1. How would I know if someone’s having a seizure? Not all people experience a seizure the same way, but there are some identifying characteristics such as:
    1. Having a convulsion that doesn’t involve a fever
    2. Being unresponsive to a question or instructions for a short period of time
    3. Having a short blackout or memory confusion
    4. Becoming stiff for no obvious reason
    5. Falling for no apparent reason
    6. Having periods of blinking with no apparent cause or provocation
    7. Having bouts of chewing with no apparent cause or provocation
    8. Being unable to communicate for a short period of time
    9. Having repetitive movements
    10. Demonstrating rapid jerking movements of the legs, arms, or body|
  2. Should women with epilepsy get pregnant? It’s a myth that women who suffer from epilepsy shouldn’t get pregnant or can’t get pregnant. Having this condition typically doesn’t interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant, and epilepsy has a minimal effect on the development of the child. The concern comes if a woman takes anticonvulsant drugs. These drugs increase the risk of birth defects by 2–10 percent. Women who must take anti-epileptic drugs need to work closely with their doctor and a neurologist to minimize those risks.
  3. Can I pass epilepsy onto my children? It’s a myth that people who suffer from epilepsy will naturally pass this on to their kids through genetics. Some children of parents with certain types of epilepsy are at a higher risk of developing this condition; however, the risk is low. A single gene problem is rarely the cause of seizure disorder, which typically involves a combination of gene defects.
  1. How is epilepsy treated? There are many ways a doctor and a patient can help stop or reduce the effects of seizures. Here are some common treatments for epilepsy:
    1. Medication. Anti-seizure or anticonvulsant drugs help limit the spread of seizures in the brain. These drugs are typically successful for two in three people with this disorder.
    2. Surgery. If the patient has a focal seizure—one that comes from a single area of the brain—surgery to remove that part of the brain may be recommended. This could stop any future seizures from occurring or allow the medication to control them more easily. Surgery for epilepsy is rare but used when the seizure area is in the brain’s temporal lobe.
    3. Alternative treatment. If surgery isn’t possible and anticonvulsant drugs don’t work, other treatments may help epileptic patients, including:
      1. A ketogenic diet. This consists of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet with reduced calories.
      2. Vagus nerve stimulation. For this treatment, an electrical device is placed under the skin on the upper chest. It sends signals to the left vagus nerve alongside the brainstem.
  1. Am I allowed to drive if I have epilepsy? The answer is yes and no. A majority of states won’t issue a driver’s license to a person suffering from epilepsy unless he can provide medical documentation that he’s been seizure-free for a certain period of time. Each state has its own guidelines about this, and the time period can range from a few months to over a year. In some states, you need a letter from your doctor if your seizures:
  • Are nocturnal seizures and happen only while you’re sleeping
  • Don’t distract you from driving
  • Have warning signs that allow you to get off the road. These signs might be a strange feeling or smell prior to a seizure.
  1. Will most people die from epilepsy? While the risk of an early death is higher for some people who suffer from epilepsy, most people live a full life. They can reduce the risk of an epilepsy-related death by being living cautiously and safely and adhering to their medication regimen.

    There are some factors that increase the risk of early death, including:
    1. Seizures that last for more than five minutes. This condition is known as “status epilepticus” and can sometimes occur when a patient stops taking his medication.
    2. Falls or injuries caused by a seizure.
    3. Serious health conditions such as a tumor or a stroke.

We Can Help

If your epilepsy makes it impossible for you to sustain gainful employment and you need disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help. We offer skilled legal advice and guidance to step you through the application process to help you get the benefits you need and deserve. If your claim is denied, we can help you file an appeal. Call us today at (402) 933-5405 to schedule an evaluation to discuss your specific situation. 


Timothy J. Cuddigan (Founder - Retired)
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Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience