Epilepsy Is Far More Common Than Most of Us Realize
- About 300,000 Canadians (1% of the population) are affected by this seizure disorder.
- Each year, 1 in 2000 is diagnosed with epilepsy.
- Each day in Canada, an average of 38 people learn that they have epilepsy.
- In one year, an average of 14,000 people learn that they have epilepsy.
- 60% of new patients are young children or senior citizens.
- Among seniors epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder, after dementia and stroke.
- The prevalence of epilepsy in persons over the age of 65 is approximately 7%: 1 in 14 seniors.
Did You Know?
In old Ireland, epilepsy was known as "St. Paul's Disease". The apostle discreetly mentioned his epilepsy on several occasions. In the 2nd. letter to Corinthians (2, 7) he says "...to keep me from being puffed up with pride...I was given a painful physical ailment...to beat me and keep me from being proud." He again mentioned his ailment in Galatians 4, 13-14.
In the Middle Ages, Epilepsy was referred to as St. Vitus's Dance, not because St. Vitus had epilepsy but because people would dance in front of the statue of Saint Vitus on his feast day. This dancing developed almost into a mania. His connection with such "dancing" led to his patronage of dancers, and those with epilepsy supposedly because of the muscle jerking associated with tonic clonic epilepsy.
The first (on record in Canada) neurosurgical electrical stimulation procedure, as treatment for recurrent seizures was performed in 1909 in St. Anthony , Newfoundland and Labrador , Canada, by Dr. John Mason Little. Dr. Little came to the Labrador coast from Massachussets General Hospital in the summer of 1907. He worked out of St. Anthony until 1915. These procedures were usually preformed at major medical centres.
What a Long Way We've Come! - Treatments for Epilepsy Through The Ages
There are many of us who work or live with epilepsy every day. Sometimes it can be difficult to see past the continuing challenges - the seizures, the side effects of the medication, and the discriminatory attitudes of others. It can seem as though we haven't come very far in terms of understanding.
Or have we? People with epilepsy over the centuries have had to endure some of the most absurd and horrific beliefs and treatments imaginable; treatments that today seem often incomprehensible. At the time however, they were common practice. My, oh my, what a long way we have come.
- A folk remedy from Germany that was considered effective for treating the falling sickness throughout many eras: "Scrape a little matter from a human scull and administer this over a period of several months. If the patient is a man, the scull must be that of a woman, and vice versa"
- A Babylonian tablet dating from between 1067 and 1046 BC revealed that at that time, it was believed that epilepsy was caused by malignant spirits and that nocturnal seizures, in particular, were caused by ghosts. Exorcism, ointments, amulets, and enemas were used as treatments.
- Indian cures of the past focused on purging uncleanliness through means such as enemas and induced "vomitation". Dietary cures included concoctions such as sour milk curds and various animal parts, including excrement.
- From the Greek island of Kos in the 400s BC, sufferers were told to avoid wearing black, abstain from baths, and avoid the use of woolen blankets made from the fleece of goats.
- In Roman times it was believed thatseizures could be brought on by a disturbance of the brain through unfavourable climactic conditions or toxins. The solution? Apply a tourniquet on the shaking body part to stop the toxins from reaching the brain. In the extreme, amputate. The Roman world also holds the dubious distinction of beginning the trend of castration of male sufferers: a practice that continued through to the late nineteenth century. Other cures included drinking the blood of stags or slain gladiators.
- In 1685, King Charles II of England suffered from an illness that caused him to have convulsions. The treatments he underwent included: "letting" of one pint of blood; an enema made of a concoction of seeds, spices and minerals; & having his head shaved and blistered. Needless to say, the King died.
- In the early 1800s, Sir Charles Locock credited crowded teeth with causing seizures. As a result, removing the teeth was a therapy of the time, along with psychiatric institutionalization and isolation of "contagious" patients with epilepsy.
- In the United States during the 1920s, half the states in the U.S. had laws that mandated the sterilization of patients with epilepsy, grouping them in with "harmful groups of society."