November is National Epilepsy Month

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Carole E. Young
Rowan Epilepsy Support Group
Epilepsy is a medical condition that causes seizures and affects 2.5 million Americans. More than 180,000 new cases of seizures and epilepsy are diagnosed each year, and 1 in 12 Americans will suffer at least one seizure in their lifetime.
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.
Epilepsy can be caused by any number of conditions that injure or affect the function of the brain. A major cause is head injuries, whether due to trauma or an infection such as meningitis.
Former Sen. Tony Coelho, author of the Americans Disabilities Act who has had seizures for a long time, has concerns about the high number of soldiers returning from Iraq with traumatic brain injuries. The risk of epilepsy among this group of soldiers is very high. Studies have shown that 20 percent to 25 percent of individuals with “closed head” injuries will develop what is termed post traumatic epilepsy.
Most people with epilepsy are able to live full and productive lives between seizures. Approximately 70 percent achieve complete control of seizures with the use of medication. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of new medications used to treat seizures and many of these are also being used to treat various types of mental health conditions.
For some people whose seizures cannot be controlled with medication alone, surgery now offers hope. Surgeries are varied and aim to remove the area of the brain that is the focus of seizure activity. Numerous tests are required to determine if the person desiring surgery is an appropriate candidate. Another type of surgery is the Vagus Nerve Stimulator. A pacemaker for the brain is implanted in the chest wall with a wire leading up through the vagus nerve in the neck. It is a method of helping to even out brain wave activity.
The Rowan County Epilepsy Support Group, sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina, was started in 1992 by Alice and Ralph Deal. The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month September through May at First United Methodist Church. The goal of the group is to offer education about epilepsy, social support and resources.
For more information, contact Carole Young at 704-639-0847 or Pat Gibson is executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina. The group’s toll-free number is 800-642-0500. Its website is www.epilepsync. org
Carole Young is the facilitator of the Rowan County Epilepsy Support Group. Young has received training as a Helping Other People with Epilepsy mentor and serves as secretary of the Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina.