Solve doubts about epilepsy

Can I work if I am diagnosed with epilepsy? And driving and playing sports? And if I am a child, can I go to camps or should I always sleep accompanied by my parents? These and other doubts are what the first day for patients with epilepsy intends to resolve, which will take place this coming Saturday, from ten in the morning to one at noon, at the Teatret del Serrallo. It is a joint initiative between the association Si jo puc, tu també #epilep and the medical team of Hospital Joan XXIII, with the aim of making patients feel supported and find answers in how to deal with the disease.

The day will feature six talks by neurologists, both pediatric and adult, as well as a clinical psychologist and the president of the organizing association, David Sanahuja. The Daily has been able to speak with two of the speakers, who know epilepsy like the back of their hand. One of them is Dr. Mireia Álvarez, neuropediatrician at Joan XXIII, who explains, by way of example, that "one of the main fears of children with this disease is the transition to the adult unit."

Lets start by the beginning. Epilepsy is a neurological disease in which normal brain activity is disrupted, causing seizures or unusual behaviors and sensations. “For us to understand, it is as if the brain were electricity and the neurons discharged”, explains the doctor and neurologist of Joan XXIII, Ángela Monterde.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of epilepsy: generalized and focal. The first occurs when the crisis is general, throughout the brain, causing seizures, the main symptom of epilepsy. In addition, loss of muscle control, rhythmic and jerky muscle movements, and absences, such as staring at one point for several seconds, are also recorded.

The second typology is focused, when the crisis occurs in a more localized place in the brain. "Partial seizures can be recorded here, in addition to altering emotions and sensations," explains Dr. Monterde.

The causes in an adult person can be multiple: an infection, a tumor, an autoimmune disease, or even a head injury. Some risk factors are usually drug and alcohol use, and lack of sleep, among others.

Age-dependent epilepsies

Dr. Mireia Álvarez explains that children with epilepsy are seen every week in the Joan XXIII pediatric unit. "In the case of the little ones, we find that many are age-dependent, which means that, as they get older, the symptoms end up disappearing," says Álvarez. The neuropediatrician explains how infants, newborns or intrauterine babies have even been diagnosed. "In the case of newborn babies, we know that something is happening by suspicious movements," says Álvarez. According to the experts consulted, the age groups where epilepsy is most frequently diagnosed are children and the elderly.

The disease can be treated in two ways: with preventive drugs or those known as attack drugs, to end the crisis. "When the seizure lasts a long time, medical attention is important, since in a prolonged crisis many neurons die and it is necessary to induce the patient into a coma to paralyze brain activity," adds Dr. Monterde.

'Revelation'

This Saturday's event also seeks to contribute to the destigmatization of the disease. "She has been hidden for a long time and now it is important that we give her visibility," explains the neuropediatrician Mireia Álvarez.

To whet your appetite, we will do a bit of revelation of the encounter. People with epilepsy can drive, as long as they have been seizure-free for more than a year. As far as work is concerned, they can work with only a few limitations, such as not doing it at heights –for example cleaning windows in buildings–, or carrying heavy machinery, to avoid risks. These and other answers will be found on Saturday at the Teatret del Serrallo.

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