What support is there available for people with epilepsy?
Epilepsy, a condition characterised by recurring seizures, can have a great impact on a person’s life, as well as that of their family and friends. However, thanks to medical and technological advances, there are solutions available to support people with epilepsy in living a full, independent life.
Here, we are taking a closer look at the condition, as well as what treatments there are to better understand how we can better support epilepsy sufferers.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), epilepsy is the most common neurological disease in the world, estimated to affect some 50 million people around the globe. This makes it more common than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s, according to Epilepsy Action Australia.
Approximately 1-2 per cent of the Australian and New Zealand populations are believed to have epilepsy1,2, although the WHO notes that 10 per cent of people are expected to experience a seizure at least once in their lives.
However, just because a person has a seizure, does not mean they are epileptic. People are only diagnosed with the neurological condition if such fits are recurring. These episodes of involuntary muscular movement can be either severe, or barely noticeable at all. Fits can happen just once a year to multiple occurrences per day, and can also be accompanied by a loss of consciousness and even bladder control.
The underlying neurological cause for epilepsy lies in the electrical activity in the brain. When the electrical impulses that control our bodily functions become interrupted by irregular bursts of brain cell activity, a seizure can occur. As the Epilepsy Foundation explains, during these surges, intercellular communication becomes disrupted, resulting in uncontrolled movements and confusion.
How is epilepsy addressed?
Fortunately, 70 per cent of the time, epilepsy medications are effective in minimising people’s symptoms, reports the WHO. The organisation adds that over half of adults and children are able to stop treatment without relapsing after 2-5 years of being seizure-free.
For people who live with epilepsy, there is also a suite of assistive technology that can help to make life safer and more secure in their own home. These devices are unobtrusive, and enable a client with epilepsy to have the peace of mind that help is always close at hand.
Tunstall’s connected care solutions can help detect if a person is experiencing a seizure, contacting the appropriate party to arrange for help. Solutions include an epilepsy bed sensor, as well as a fall detector and a pager.
Assistive technology appliances can be connected to the Tunstall medical alarm, which forwards any alerts on to our 24-hour monitoring centre. Our trained response operators can then contact a nominated person such as a neighbour, loved one or carer, or call for an ambulance should the need arise.
What epilepsy research is currently ongoing?
As with many serious conditions, the scientific community endeavours to further its understanding of this neurological disease, its causes and how to treat it. While there are several genetic markers which can denote the occurrence of epilepsy, the field of genetic medicine is one that could offer potential insight into measures of prevention.
In addition, researchers from the University of Connecticut are also working on a drug treatment with minimal side effects called SF0034. The treatment has currently proven affective at reducing seizures in animals, as it is more selective about which potassium channels it targets.
“This SF0034 gives me another tool, and a better tool, to dissect the function of these channels,” said Dr Anastasios Tzingounis from UConn. “We need to find solutions for kids and adults with this problem.”
To find out more about what options are available for people with epilepsy, contact the team at Tunstall today.
1Epilepsy Action Australia, About epilepsy
2Epilepsy New Zealand, Epilepsy FAQ