Valentines Day is not only a time for hugs and kisses; St. Valentine, the patron of today’s occasion, is also one of the patron saints of epilepsy, so it is also a day to show some love to anyone you know with the neurological disorder, or a little bit more extra affection if a lover has epilepsy.
In America, it is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there are two million Americans with epilepsy. Also, approximately 140,000 people get diagnosed each year.
This writer was diagnosed with generalized epilepsy at the age of 13 – an odd and frightening experience of going to sleep one night and waking up confused and devoid of energy in the hospital the next morning. With medication though, the grand mal seizures has mostly been kept under control for the past 12 years; however, there are millions worldwide who are not so fortunate.
With 40 different types of seizures and a plethora of possible causes, epilepsy is a complicated disorder and finding the right treatment can be a challenge. Economic and social issues in some countries, primarily underdeveloped areas, have only exacerbated that challenge.
A 2011 report by the International League Against Epilepsy found that epilepsy patients with low socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to have drug-related side effects, a lower quality of life and uncontrolled seizures. Moreover, patients with low SES frequented emergency rooms at hospitals more often than patients with a higher SES.
There have been various studies that explore and express a disparity in health care between people of different economic statuses. A Medscape study found that 80% of 50 million people with epilepsy worldwide live in countries with poor resources. Finding treatment is hindered by challenges both socially and economically.
Looking at America, it was found that Californian epileptic patients with incomes below the poverty line were 50 percent less likely, as opposed to those above the poverty line, to take their medication.
A writer named Elizabeth Stoker from Salon, who has epilepsy herself, wrote a special Valentines Day article. Stoker focused on raising awareness of the challenges of finding treatment for epilepsy patients. Eloquent and inspiring, her article’s message deserves to be echoed here.
Living in the UK, Stoker points out how 52 percent of people in her country are seizure free; researchers estimate that this number could be increased to 70% in any country with the right treatment. In the United States reaching that number has been a challenge. Many people, especially the poor, have access to treatments that are unreliable, along with having no health insurance.
In America, there now exists Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act which put more of a focus on wellness over illness. Obamacare allows the broad spectrum of epilepsy, with its many causes and effects, to be addressed, giving what Stokes calls a “welcome reprieve” in the fight against epilepsy.
Obamacare also ensures that people with pre-existing conditions, no matter their health status, are not denied treatment or coverage or charged more. The number of individuals with a pre-existing condition accounts for half of America, many now benefited from an act that now holds insurance companies accountable.
As Stoker’s Valentines Day article points out, there is a long way to go worldwide in treating epilepsy, a disorder that is still not fully understood with its wide variations of symptoms and treatments. However, in the US at least, there is progress with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. Despite some flaws, the act offers hope to thousands of epilepsy patients nationwide.
Editorial By Kollin Lore