Shining light upon National Epilepsy Awareness Month

It’s National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and it is one of the most common neurological disorders that affects people of all ages.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 12:18 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - It’s National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and it is one of the most common neurological disorders that affects people of all ages. Over 54,000 people in the state of Louisiana are living with epilepsy.

A person with epilepsy may experience seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in their brain. Seizures come in various types. Some people might stare into space, while the most common type involves loss of consciousness and shaking.

Doctor Jason Maljaars, a neurologist with St. Francis Medical Center, said the main causes of epilepsy are often unknown, but in most cases, it can be linked to genetic mutations, or issues with how neurotransmitters and electrolytes move in the brain. Regardless of the causes, he said it’s important for people to learn what to do if they witness someone experiencing a seizure.

“Roll the patient on their side, clear the area around them so that with their convulsing they don’t accidentally hurt themselves. Don’t try to put anything between their teeth. That’s a common attempt to try to prevent tongue biting. When you see seizure activity going on for about five minutes or more, or a seizure stops, and then the patient does not come to or start to recover, and they go back into another seizure again, that’s cause for alarm. And that’s when you should call 911,” said Dr. Maljaars.

Some triggers for an epileptic person to break out into a seizure might be flashing lights, or not taking epilepsy medicine as prescribed.

Not only does epilepsy affect adults, but it affects the lives of almost 7,000 children under the age of 18 in the state of Louisiana.

Children diagnosed epilepsy face unique challenges. The causes in children can vary, but the impact of their daily lives and development is significant.

Pediatric neurologist, Doctor Aristoteles Pena-Miches with St. Francis Medical Center said it is alright for kids to play contact sports, but to be careful especially if the seizure is not fully controlled. He also said to make sure adult supervision is present.

Dr. Pena-Miches said the nature of the mechanism of the brain cells can interfere with learning capabilities.

“Even though seizures can be fully controlled, if the brain is still producing abnormal electrical discharges it will interfere with normal brain activity. That will create processing information difficult for a child to crystalize memory. And other cognitive skills are necessary for the understanding, processing, and utilizing information at their provided school,” said Dr. Pena-Miches.

Dr. Pena-Miches said once the child is diagnosed as being epileptic, they’ll need to go through a specialist’s evaluation to determine how much their learning is impacted.

If you would like to speak with a neurologist to be tested for epilepsy, visit St. Francis Medical Center’s website.