More than 3 million people in the United States live with epilepsy, a chronic brain disorder that causes seizures. This year, COVID-19 has added to the challenges these individuals face.
A COVID-19 infection can exacerbate epileptic seizures, especially if the patient has a fever. Additionally, individuals with epilepsy may have increased anxiety, depression and insomnia due to other pandemic-related factors including social isolation, job loss and home confinement due to quarantine.
It is vital that epilepsy patients (or their caregivers) stay on top of their health care. If in-person medical appointments are not possible, take advantage of telehealth resources. Continue to take medications as prescribed and keep refills current; maintain a routine; avoid sleep deprivation, alcohol and drugs; and make time for physical exercise and other hobbies.
Despite the burdens of a global pandemic, 2020 does bring hope. For the past few decades, seizure medications have been the primary treatment for epilepsy. New options including Cannabidiol, device therapy [vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and responsive neurostimulation system (RNS)] and surgical techniques have come into effect in recent years. In 2018, the Federal Drug Administration approved DBS for refractory epilepsy treatment. Now in 2020, Marshall Neuroscience evaluates patients for both VNS and DBS treatments and surgical techniques.
November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, but Marshall Neuroscience, in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation of West Virginia, is committed to epilepsy advocacy 24/7, 365 days a year. We are working to make sure every child and adult with epilepsy receive the care they need, support fundraising and research efforts and fight social stigma about this chronic but manageable disease.
Additional information about epilepsy is available at epilepsy.com. You can also locally support epilepsy by participating in the next Walk to End Epilepsy. The 2020 event was virtual due to the pandemic, but stay tuned for plans this spring at Ritter Park.
Dr. Samrina Hanif is a board-certified, fellowship-trained neurologist at Marshall Health and associate professor of neurology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. She specializes in caring for patients with epilepsy.
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