Monday, 29 July 2013

Removing the stigma of epilepsy

Emma Renwick, an epileptic, bravely shared her experience of dealing with epilepsy on the ABC Drum program website earlier this year. She did so in an effort to reduce the social stigma associated with epilepsy, in the hopes that her daughter, who also had epilepsy, would inherit a more accepting society.

She provided the full story of her own diagnosis and the lead up to it, as well as her personal and professional struggles coping with the impact of epilepsy.

When driving one Sunday morning she had a momentary 'outage', or loss of time, which almost resulted in a car accident. Weeks later the same thing happened, and again she blacked out while in the shower and almost hit her head on the ground.

She went to the doctor, who ordered a CT scan and referred her to a neurologist. She was diagnosed with epilepsy - Absence epilepsy. While the term epilepsy conjures up images of lying on the ground having fits, there are actually several different forms of epilepsy. They can be divided into two major groups of seizures: focal (partial) or generalised seizures. Most people with epilepsy experience focal seizures. In this type of seizure the activity starts in one area of the brain (often the temporal lobe), and may spread to other brain regions. These can be further divided into:

Focal seizure - awareness retained (formerly known as simple partial seizures): the person experiencing the seizure is conscious and aware of what is happening
Focal dyscognitive seizure (formerly known as complex partial seizures) - awareness altered: the person is unaware of what is happening
Focal seizures evolving to a bilateral convulsive seizure (formerly known as generalised Tonic-Clonic seizures): the seizure activity starts on one side of the brain and them moves to the other hemispere

During generalised seizures the abnormal activity occurs in both brain hemispheres simultaneously. There are numerous types of generalised seizures, one of which is an absence seizure. Absence seizures are of short duration, and can often appear as if the person is 'zoning out'.

There are also 'other' types of seizures, which don't fit within the above categories.

More information can be found here, as well as this useful flowchart:

Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain condition in Australia and affects more than 220,000 people. Yet despite this, Emma reports, there is a high degree of discrimination against people with epilepsy. This includes exclusion, bullying, harassment and even assault at school and in the workplace. This is despite the fact that epilepsy is not contagious, does not develop as a result of any wrongdoing on the part of sufferers, and in many cases, is well controlled with medication.

Emma writes her story in an effort to help end such discrimination, and to further educate people about this very common condition. Read her story here.

ANTS can undertake thorough assessment to help you better understand and manage your epilepsy. Please contact us for more information.

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