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Epilepsy

- 15 June 2015 @ 16h20

Epilepsy is a condition in which the sufferer has recurring seizures over an extended period of time. One in every 100 people are affected by epilepsy but 80 percent of the cases can be controlled with the correct diagnosis and medication. While it can often be the result of brain damage, infection, hormonal problems, circulatory disorders or tumours, in most instances, the cause of epilepsy is unclear. There are a number of factors that doctors believe can induce a seizure, including stress, certain visual stimulation, alcohol and drug use, and poor dietary habits.

*Jessica had experienced fainting spells and blackouts for most of her life. It was only at age 17, that they were diagnosed as seizures. While a psychiatrist initially suspected Jessica of having bipolar disorder, she was referred to a neurologist to confirm that her symptoms were indeed psychological rather than neurological. As a child she had breath-held and her GP further suggested a link between children who do this and epilepsy. An EEG and MRI scan proved that her condition was not solely psychological. Jessica was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.

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Jessica opted for Lamictin over Epillum as treatment. While Lamictin took longer to take affect in the beginning stages, the side-effects were considered to be milder. However, even on Lamictin, Jessica suffered 4 seizures in the space of an hour when she arrived at a party dehydrated and began to indulge heavily in alcohol. Today, Jessica still describes strobes, high stress levels and alcohol as triggers for her condition and avoids them as best as she can.

*When Anna had her first seizure, she remembers being in first grade. While her parents placed no limitations on their child, those who needed to know of her condition were always kept well-informed. Anna was prescribed Epillum and gained weight dramatically after school when she became less active. As a result, she was often negligent of taking the medication.

Ultimately, she sought the advice of a neurologist in England who helped to attune Anna more to the needs of her own body. In the five year period that she lived in England, she only experienced three seizures. On the day of the first one, she admitted to being incredibly hot and dehydrated. The other two she experienced on long-distance flights from the United Kingdom to South Africa. Her doctor informed her to perpetually carry water and something salty with her in future. Like Jessica, Anna has similarly anticipated the onset of a seizure when she feels a sensory overload. As such, she steers clear of loud or bright clubs, where she may also become sweaty and thus dehydrated. Anna has been happily seizure-free for eight years to date.

If you suffer from epilepsy, please consult with your optician. The particular movement of the eyes—from flickering to rolling back—often indicates the different types of seizures you may be experiencing. Occipital lobe seizures, specifically, affect eye movement, vision and can even induce eye pain. Because of this, your optician may be able to help diagnose and treat your condition. Remember that our eyes are not only the windows to the soul, but, as it turns out, a wealth of information when it comes to our physiological well-being.  

*names have been changed to protect identities.

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