Just when you thought the modern world was becoming enlightened, there are still a whole lot of myths and fears about epilepsy — fueled by ignorance and misinformation. These fears might sound ridiculous to you…but they’re real for those who don’t know better.
Myth: Epilepsy is contagious. Fact: Epilepsy cannot be caught from contact with a person with epilepsy.
Myth: People with epilepsy cannot be employed. Fact: Many people with epilepsy are successful in all types of professions. Even today, people with epilepsy often do not discuss their medical disorder with co-workers for fear of what others may think. Yet, epilepsy is generally not a condition that gets worse with time.
Myth: People with epilepsy are physically limited in what they can do. Fact: In most cases epilepsy is not a barrier to physical achievement. In some circumstances, when seizures are not being well controlled, persons with epilepsy may be advised to refrain from certain activities such as driving an automobile, working at heights or working with certain machinery.
Myth: Only kids get epilepsy. Fact: Although epilepsy is more common in children and teens under age 15, epilepsy happens quite often to older adults, especially those with a history of stroke, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, more than 570,000 adults age 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.
Myth: Epilepsy is rare and there aren’t many people who have it. Fact: Epilepsy in America is as common as breast cancer. There are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the US as the number of people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined. Epilepsy can occur as a single condition, or may accompany other conditions affecting the brain, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury.
Myth: You should force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure so that they don’t swallow their tongue. Fact: Never jam something into the mouth of a person having a seizure! It is impossible to swallow your tongue and by jamming something into a person’s mouth, you can cause trauma to the teeth and mouth and even cause them to suffocate.
Myth: Epilepsy is no longer a problem since there are medications to treat it. Fact: More than three million Americans of all ages are living with epilepsy. Every year 200,000 Americans will develop seizures and epilepsy for the first time. Unfortunately, treatment does not prevent seizures for everyone. Researchers continue to look for new ways to combat this disorder.
Myth: You can’t die from epilepsy. Fact: Epilepsy can become a life-threatening medical condition when seizures cannot be stopped. This year an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 will die of seizures and related causes. Patients with epilepsy have a mortality rate two to three times more than that of the general population, and their risk of sudden death is 24 times greater.
Copyright © 2009, Phylis Feiner Johnson. All rights reserved.