November is national epilepsy month

Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor

Our good health and the good health of those very near and dear to us is something we should treasure always. In the past few weeks many Minnesotans have heard more about seizures, mainly because of the reporting on the condition of University of Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill.

By following reports on Coach Kill, we have seen seizures and epilepsy come out of the shadows. More than 60,000 Minnesotans reportedly have epilepsy. To learn more about seizures/epilepsy, bookmark the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota website on your computer. Go to

The many media reports on Kill and on seizures has engaged the community in a dialog about seizures. Coach Kill is not the only high-profile person to have seizures. Julius Caesar, Danny Glover, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth Taylor, Charles Dickens, Margot Hemingway, Sir Isaac Newton, Chief Justice John Roberts and Sen. Ted Kennedy all have/had seizures. Entertainer Prince revealed in a 2009 interview that he suffered from seizures as a child.

The spectrum of seizure disorders is vast. A seizure can range from a slight facial tick to a seizure which results in death. There is no cure for epilepsy and treatment for managing the 20-plus different types of seizures ranges from medications to brain surgery.

November is national epilepsy month and the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota will host the first-ever epilepsy research summit on Nov. 5 at the Bakken  Museum in Minneapolis.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota’s 2011 Midwest SEIZURE SMART Fall Conference on Saturday, Oct. 15 will give participants access to national experts and thought-leaders in the fields of epilepsy. The conference offers exclusive education materials, a chance for participants to ask questions of experts and connect with others living with seizures. FIVE CEUs are available for health care professionals.

Registration is $40 and includes continental breakfast & lunch, parking and conference educational materials. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify.  Complete the registration form available on the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota website, or call 800.779.0777 to register by phone. The Sofitel is located at 5601 West 78th Street in Bloomington.

Let’s read more about epilepsy and how it can be treated.

What is epilepsy? Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition in children and the third most common in adults after Alzheimer’s and stroke. Despite modern therapy, about one million people continue to experience seizures or significant side effects from treatment.

An Epilepsy Foundation report published in 2000 revealed that epilepsy costs the nation more than $16.6 billion a year in health care and unemployment.

Epilepsy is a generic term used to define a family of seizure disorders. A person with recurring seizures is said to have epilepsy.

A seizure is a brief disturbance of electrical activity in the brain. Twenty-five million Americans (one in every 10) have had, or will have, a seizure at some point in their lives. More than 3 million people in the U.S. have some form of epilepsy. Thirty percent of them are children under the age of 18. A large number of children and adults have undetected or untreated epilepsy.

The World Health Organization estimates there are 40 to 50 million people with epilepsy throughout the world. About 200,000 new cases of seizure disorders and epilepsy are diagnosed each year. All people inherit varying degrees of susceptibility to seizures. The genetic factor is assumed to be greater when no specific cause can be identified.

Epilepsy primarily affects the very young and the very old, although anyone can get epilepsy at anytime. Twenty percent of cases develop before the age of five. Fifty percent develop before the age of 25. It is increasingly associated with the elderly, and there are as many cases of epilepsy in those 60 years of age and older as in children 10 years of age and under.


Many people with epilepsy prefer the term disorder, since the condition is not a disease in the usual sense of the term—it is a disorder characterized by a recurring disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain. To the general public, the term disease has connotations of being unsightly, progressive and contagious. Epilepsy and seizure disorder(s) are equally acceptable terms that may be used interchangeably.

Seizures are controlled with medication, persons with epilepsy are not. “Controlled epileptic” is particularly to be avoided as it often gives the impression that the person needs to be restrained from willful, aggressive behavior. The adjective violent as a description of a seizure is also unfortunate because the term implies a threat to others and a force out of control. Actually, there is no danger to anyone from the seizure.

• Wikipedia at—Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication. However, over 30 percent of people with epilepsy do not have seizure control even with the best available medications. Surgery may be considered in difficult cases.

• Epilepsy Foundation at—As the largest nongovernment funder of epilepsy research, the Epilepsy Foundation is leading the fight to stop seizures, find a cure and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy. The Foundation funds research that is focused on a cure for epilepsy and aimed at eliminating seizures, side-effects and other consequences of epilepsy.