Bring awareness to epilepsy

Neurologic diseases deserve more attention from the public

Milton Woolfenden, Staff Writer

Blurry vision, uncontrollable full-body spasms, slurred speech and lockjaw. If you have those symptoms, you may have just experienced an epileptic seizure.

Since first grade, I think I have had more MRI scans than most people have in an entire lifetime. That’s because I’ve had epilepsy.

According to Healthline, it affects approximately 65 million people around the world, including 3.5 million Americans. In spite of this, epilepsy does not get nearly enough media coverage.

I do believe, with the proper amount of research and funding, a cure for epilepsy is an attainable goal. It’s something that should be focused on.

Unfortunately, I’m not a science guy. If I was, I would be willing to devote my entire career to finding a cure for the disease.

I’ve suffered from epilepsy in two distinct eras: when I was originally diagnosed in first grade through third grade and from senior year of high school to the present.

When I was diagnosed, my body went rigid but didn’t spasm. I didn’t get blurry vision or lockjaw, but my speech was slurred. During this time, my seizures were always accompanied by nausea. Now, with my current seizures, some of my symptoms have carried over, but there are several symptoms that I never used to get, adding another layer of mystery to the overall cause.

It is this uncertainty surrounding what causes epilepsy that makes me believe it deserves more attention.

All things considered, we as a society have a fairly good understanding of what causes diseases like cancer and what can be done to lower an individual’s risk to catch it while still in the developing stages.

When discussing epilepsy, aside from medication — which doesn’t guarantee the elimination of seizures — we can treat it, but don’t know if there is any possible cure.

I personally suffer from Grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures. Unlike focal or partial seizures, Grand mal seizures occur on both sides of the brain, according to the CDC. As a result, this means Grand mal seizures can include symptoms from the entire seizure spectrum.

During a Grand mal seizure, a person will become rigid, have full-body spasms, and could lose consciousness. A person having a focal seizure will remain conscious and their symptoms will vary depending on the part of the brain where the seizure originated.

It is because they occur on both sides of the brain that grand-mal seizures are so debilitating. It is a complete system failure and a complete reset at the same time. It affects the entire brain, not just a limited portion.

This is where further research needs to occur. In these situations, you can’t stop a possible seizure. You just have to sit around, feel helpless and wait for a seizure to happen.

While this lack of information can be attributed to the complexities of the topic, it can also be traced back to the awareness and lack of funding for research concerning epilepsy compared to other diseases like cancer.

Although cancer affects millions and warrants the amount of attention and funding it does, 65 million isn’t exactly a small number for those suffering from epilepsy.

If I have a seizure on say Monday afternoon there’s a chance I won’t remember having it when I wake up Tuesday morning.

While there are many terrible symptoms of various diseases, memory loss has to be one of the worst. If there was more attention on epilepsy, maybe we couldn’t find a total cure but at least a partial cure for certain symptoms.

You can treat a disease, but first, you have to figure out how to detect it. In the case of epilepsy, MRIs and electroencephalograms are the most common methods used.

As you can see, epilepsy is not a fun experience. While we may never be able to completely cure it, more research aimed at finding a possible cause and ways to more effectively treat it would be appreciated.

I’m not saying we need to make as big of a deal about epilepsy awareness as we do with cancer awareness. We don’t need to have awareness walks and have everyone wearing purple ribbons. But, we should be bringing more attention to epilepsy awareness than we are at the present time.