Each year, around 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy, making it the most common neurological disorder among people in the United States. Epilepsy is estimated to affect one percent of the population. Sufferers of this seizure disorder have episodes of abnormally high brain activity. The condition may be experienced from annoying, or something to be watched but that is manageable, or as a truly debilitating illness requiring constant care, depending on the patient and on the severity, frequency, and duration of their seizures. In three out of four cases, epilepsy can be treated with medication.
The causes of epilepsy are rather varied. Heredity seems to play a role in some instances; this is frequently the case when someone is born with epilepsy. Epilepsy can also come from brain damage, perhaps due to a stroke or to a concussion, a blow to the head, or some other form of brain damage. Meningitis and other brain infections can also result in epilepsy. Often, people over 60 are diagnosed with epilepsy in the complete absence of head trauma, and experts believe this indicates a link with dementia.
A recent technological advance offers hope of a treatment technique that could make the disease easier to live with. The notion of predicting seizures has tantalized epilepsy researchers for years, if not longer. In patients whose epilepsy doesn’t respond to medication, which it frequently does not, prediction, and the planning it allows, is an important component of living a normal life. Assistance dogs have a limited ability to tell when one is about to happen, but not a lot of epileptic people require the services of a dog and the timeframe isn’t very long. Now crowdsourced research has found a predictive approach that can tell with 82 percent accuracy whether a person is soon to have a seizure.
Another option for people who cannot control their epilepsy with medication is surgery. One surgery implants a device in the brain to detect and try to counteract seizures as they happen. This is rarely performed, in part, a study has shown, that people believe the procedure is higher risk than it actually is.