Skip to main content

International Epilepsy Day (February 12) aims to improve understanding of epilepsy and support the World Health Organization’s efforts to close existing inclusion and treatment gaps.

Individuals with epilepsy can lead full, regular lives with longevity. This includes having children, an active social life, and a rewarding career. However, it is important for their health that they seek and receive appropriate care on a timely basis, says an expert from the global health system Cleveland Clinic. His message reflects the focus of International Epilepsy Day organizers on supporting efforts by the World Health Organization to close existing inclusion and treatment gaps.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases globally

Around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally, according to the World Health Organization. The condition is characterized by periodic and involuntary seizures, ranging from mild to severe, and if these are diagnosed and controlled, epilepsy patients can lead a full, healthy life, says Imad Najm, MD, Director of the Epilepsy Center at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute.

“It is important to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding epilepsy as these could cause individuals with the condition to face prejudice at school, work and in social environments, and could even prevent them from seeking the care that they need, or discourage them from taking prescribed medications,” said Dr. Najm.

“This is concerning as uncontrolled seizures impact negatively on a person’s health and damage the affected neurons in the brain. In addition, without treatment, people who have seizures could fall, drown, have accidental burns, or even suffer sudden unexpected and early deaths.”

Diagnosing the condition can be quick and easy

Dr. Najm adds that misperceptions about what a seizure looks like could also lead to individuals dismissing mild seizures or being misdiagnosed when seeking help.

“While people might expect someone with epilepsy to have convulsions and foam from the mouth, most seizures are subtle. For example, a seizure might present as prolonged staring and rapid eye blinking; unusual behavior with chewing movements or hand-picking movements; a strong feeling of déjà vu; or having either rigid or overly relaxed muscles. It is much rarer to see jerking of the arms, legs, or head, falling, or loss of consciousness,” he says.

Fortunately, diagnosing epilepsy can be quick and easy, Dr. Najm says. The diagnosis can be done through an electroencephalogram (EEG) test that records the brain’s electrical activity, and the possible cause of the disease may be assessed through a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Dr. Najm adds that treatments have advanced considerably over the past decade, particularly for patients who have been unresponsive to traditional medications. “The majority of patients can successfully control their seizures with affordable medications that have been around for many years and proven safe. However, in cases where two or more traditional medications have failed, we now have more options to consider,” he explains.

Dr Iman Najm, Cleveland Clinic

Dr Iman Najm, Cleveland Clinic

Seeking a treatment plan

A medication with the generic name cenobamate, which was approved by the FDA in the U.S. in 2019, has shown to be effective in 20-30% of those patients for whom multiple other medications have failed, says Dr. Najm.

“If patients’ seizures cannot be controlled by medications, the solution might lie in surgery, with many more patients now regarded as surgical candidates than in decades past, ” Dr. Najm adds.

“Thanks to improved imaging techniques, as well as software that leverages machine learning and other AI technologies to analyze images, we can more easily identify the small part of the brain from where the seizures are emanating, so that it may be removed. In around 50% of cases, this surgery can be curative, meaning the patient lives a seizure-free life. In addition, we are offering surgery to patients in higher age groups than ever before as older people are generally healthier than previously, and the safety of surgery has improved over the years.”

The bottom line

Dr. Najm says he salutes global efforts by the joint organizers of International Epilepsy Day – the International Bureau for Epilepsy and the International League Against Epilepsy – to address what they term ‘low levels of health literacy and high levels of misunderstanding and misconceptions’ about epilepsy.

“It is very important that common misconceptions do not put a patient off seeking or sticking to a treatment plan. If their seizures are controlled, these individuals can live completely regular lives, and it is important for employers and society to recognize this fact,” Dr. Najm concludes.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion, and innovation. The Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States.

Dr.Imad Najm

Dr.Imad Najm

MD, Director of the Epilepsy Center at the Cleveland Clinic

Longevity Live is a digital publisher AND DOES NOT OFFER PERSONAL HEALTH OR MEDICAL ADVICE. IF YOU’RE FACING A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES IMMEDIATELY, OR VISIT THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM OR URGENT CARE CENTER. YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER BEFORE STARTING ANY NUTRITION, DIET, EXERCISE, FITNESS, MEDICAL, OR WELLNESS PROGRAM.

This content, developed through collaboration with licensed medical professionals and external contributors, including text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, procedure, or treatment, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter drug, vitamin, supplement, or herbal alternative.

Longevity Live makes no guarantees about the efficacy or safety of products or treatments described in any of our posts. Any information on supplements, related services and drug information contained in our posts are subject to change and are not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects.

Longevity does not recommend or endorse any specific test, clinician, clinical care provider, product, procedure, opinion, service, or other information that may be mentioned on Longevity’s websites, apps, and Content.

Leave a Reply