Article originally featured on Palm Beach Post.
Did you know epilepsy is a condition more people live with than autism, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy — combined? It’s true. In fact, the family of epilepsy diseases is the fourth-most prevalent neurological condition in the United States, striking approximately three million people nationally and more than 400,000 in the state of Florida.
Epilepsy, a common neurological condition that one in 26 people will be diagnosed with at some point in their lives, is a diagnosis given when a person experiences two or more seizures that cannot be attributed to another cause. Seizures are sudden surges of abnormal electrical activity in the brain that affect how a person feels or acts for a short period of time and are broken into different types based on where the electrical surge begins in the brain. Oftentimes, when someone hears the word “seizure,” they visualize a person with their eyes rolled back, lying on the ground, convulsing. In reality, this visual represents just one of many different types of seizures.
To this point, there is a general lack of knowledge regarding seizure recognition in our society which can, commonly, contribute to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. By properly educating oneself about epilepsy, one can better recognize when friends or loved ones might be experiencing a seizure, allowing the opportunity for the proper precautionary measures to be taken. Aside from the potential of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, epilepsy unawareness can also spur increased medical complications, a strengthening of the stigma surrounding this disorder, and increased depression and social isolation among those living with it. Much can be saved by increasing our overall public understanding of epilepsy.
Throughout the greater West Palm Beach area, there are more than 41,000 individuals living with epilepsy. Dedicated to serving this population is Epilepsy Florida, an organization with an extended reach into Indian River, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie counties. The organization provides support to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and access to resources and accelerated therapies designed to stop seizures and save lives. As a founding partner of the Epilepsy Alliance America, Epilepsy Florida provides numerous services to individuals and families, including advocacy and counseling, education and prevention, direct medical and neuro-psychological services, as well as other programs regardless of financial situation or socioeconomic status. Whether a person newly diagnosed with epilepsy, the parent of a child struggling with seizures, or the caregiver of a loved one without work because of their condition, Epilepsy Florida is committed to being the first call for anyone living with epilepsy.
Most recently, the organization celebrated Epilepsy Awareness Month in November; a key opportunity to increase awareness about epilepsy to help support the thousands of Floridians and their families affected by it. However, the fight against epilepsy is ever-present – not only in November, but every day. Simply by talking about it will increase education and understanding within our communities, therefore eliminating stigma and empowering those who are affected by the disorder.
KAREN BASHA EGOZI, MIAMI
Editor’s note: Egozi is chief executive officer of Epilepsy Florida.