Is Epilepsy a Disability?

If we start from the fact epilepsy is a neurological disorder, can we give a simple answer to a question is epilepsy a disability? Which factors are taken into consideration when labeling something as a disability?

We can’t deny the fact 50 millions of people living with epilepsy deal with a couple of challenges. Some people consider epilepsy rather as a disease condition than a disability. However, what is the final answer to this question?

Qualifying for Disability

One of the most common qualifiers for disability is that it is related to basic work activities. Here we are talking about severe conditions. When we say severe, that means a person is limited in regard of walking, sitting, standing, lifting, or remembering.

American with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies a disabled person lives with an impairment (mental or physical), which limits his/her major activities and essential functions, and about which he/she has a record of.

According to this, some of the impairments which are undoubtedly treated as disability are:

  • Multiple Sclerosis,
  • Visual Impairment,
  • Cancer,
  • HIV infection,
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease,
  • Bipolar disorder,

any many more, but, is epilepsy on the list?

Let’s see what living with epilepsy actually means and how epilepsy affects the life of a person living with it. Then we will make a conclusion.

Epilepsy and Diagnosis

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Epilepsy is a medical condition widely known for recurring, unpredictable seizures. This condition can form any background, which is the reason why there are over 40 different types of epileptic seizures. Some people get diagnosed at their mature age, while epilepsy may occur among children at a very early age as well.

That means a person may be born with epilepsy, but not know about that until a certain moment. Discovering the condition sometimes takes decades. Diagnosis takes months, as there are necessary investigation and tests to be done before jumping to a final diagnose.

Neurologists, medical professionals, and paramedics are all involved in the process of diagnosing epilepsy. It also takes some time to be spent under continuous monitoring. A person usually does American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and MRIs, such as heart tests as well.

Each person living with epilepsy is a story themselves, as epilepsy affects them differently. Taking medications is always an option, but the thing here is that it takes time before a neurologist prescribes the right medication. This may seem as experimenting, as some of the medications may affect everyday activities, such as driving, which makes a person less independent during that period.

There are people taking 20 pills a day! However, no matter of the number and the price of the pills, if a neurologist manages to find the right medications to take – they truly work.

Yet, there may be another solution, as about 70% of people can actually control their seizures, or treat epilepsy with surgery or through dietary therapies.

Types of Seizures

Just as we mentioned above, epilepsy doesn’t come as a pattern, but it comes with different symptoms. However, the most reliable and certain sign of epilepsy is epileptic seizures. We can divide them into two main categories:

  • Focal,
  • Generalized seizures.

Focal seizures are the most common type of seizures that affect about 60% of people with epilepsy. Names of focal seizures are based on a particular part of a brain where the seizure starts. As this kind of seizures may cause seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real, sometimes these symptoms are mistaken for some type of nerve disorder or mental illness.

When it comes to generalized seizures, nerve cells on both sides of a brain interlock, which causes blackout, muscle spasms, or fall. As there are six types of generalized seizures, it is possible that a seizure starts as one kind, and then turn into another, which makes things pretty complex. Some of them are very hard to identify, as they may cause physical and sensory symptoms at the same time.

Those six types are:

  1. Tonic-clonic (easiest to notice, results in losing consciousness, lasts from 1 to 3 minutes),
  2. Clonic (muscle spasms, lasts for a couple of minutes),
  3. Tonic (typical for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, tenses up the muscles, lasts for about 20 seconds),
  4. Myoclonic (contractions on both sides of the body, a person is able to think clearly during the seizure, lasts under one minute),
  5. Atonic (abrupt loss of muscle tone, may result in head injury, lasts less than 15 seconds),
  6. Absence (causes loss of consciousness, lasts from a couple of seconds to one minute).

How often may seizures occur? Well, it depends on the case. Some people have a couple of seizures a day, others have it once in two months, some once in a year. However, a seizure is not a predictable category, and you simply can’t know when it is about to occur.

Keeping Things Under Control

If you read the text carefully, then you certainly remember the part where we talked about medications. What is the point of taking pills with people living with epilepsy? The answer is pretty much logical – keeping seizures under control. Even though there is no a magic pill for epilepsy, as its cause is unknown most of the times, which doesn’t mean you can’t prevent seizures, or at least make them easiest to bear.

It is hard to predict what will cause a seizure, but many people living with epilepsy can easily make a track of their epileptic triggers. Some of the most common factors that trigger seizures are:

However, besides taking the prescribed medication, there are some things that may reduce chances of epileptic seizures. For example:

  • Getting enough sleep,
  • Managing stress,
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs,
  • Eating a healthy diet,
  • Not playing computer games or watching disturbing content on the TV,

are just some of the ways that will reduce the risk of a seizure. Of course, any person living with epilepsy for a couple of years can easily conclude which things trigger seizures and avoid as much as possible.

What Does It Actually Feel Like to Live with Epilepsy?

After being diagnosed with epilepsy and getting the right medications comes the phase of adjusting to this new phase of life. It certainly means managing things, but is it that hard as it seems at first sight? Not at all. Let us explain why.

Taking medications in time can get down seizures significantly. This can even alleviate the symptoms of a seizure, as it may only make you feel dizzy. Bad tonic-clonic seizures are not pleasant at all, but they are as manageable as the rest of types if you treat them right. These soothed seizures are named auras, and they are a bit more frequent among women, especially around the time of their periods.

During the phase of investigating which American with Disabilities Act (ADA) , it is not recommended to drive a car. However, once the medications are prescribed, a person can get back to his/her normal daily routine.

Living with epilepsy won’t stop you from getting a job, making a carrier, making new friends, or starting a family. On the other hand, some medications are not allowed during pregnancy for example, which may be a bit aggravating at this phase, but is actually nothing horrific.

There will be bad days as well when you would want to slow down a bit and do less physical or mental work. You will easily notice the triggers to your seizures. Some people noticed hot days, thunderstorms, harsh sounds, or a stressful situation at work cause their seizures, but that is something that needs to be learned with time.

It is true, a seizure may happen at any place, and at any time, you can’t control or predict it sometimes. Yet, this is not a reason to lock yourself up in the closet and isolate yourself from the world. Avoiding things that make you feel bad and doing the ones that make you feel good, as well as taking medications in time will reduce the chance of seizures significantly and make it easiest possible to live with it.

Conclusion

We guess you have already concluded what is our point here. Epilepsy certainly puts some challenges in front of people living with it, but it is not a condition that makes them disabled. They can live their lives just as any other ordinary human does, even though it takes some time to get used to a new way of living.

Is epilepsy a disability? There are some cases when a person may find it hard to deal with severe seizures that affect normal functioning to a great extent. Yet, most people living with epilepsy who are keeping it under control and experience short seizures don’t find themselves disabled in no way, nor the world does consider epilepsy as a disability.

 

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