ERISA & Social Security Disability: Southern California Lawyers
Disability Benefits for Seizures
A “seizure” can be defined as a sudden uncontrolled surge of electric activity in the brain. Seizures typically last from 30 seconds to a few minutes. If a seizure lasts more than five minutes, it constitutes an emergency. Prolonged seizure activity is called “status epilepticus."
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has set forth a nice outline of seizure disorders, including epilepsy (referenced below), as follows:
“Epilepsy” is a term that refers to chronic seizures of unknown etiology. Since the 1960s, scientists have recognized that patterns of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can be detected by electroencephalography (EEG), cause epileptic seizures when there is a surge of electrical activity.
Epilepsy is estimated to affect approximately 3 million Americans. It occurs most often in early childhood and in the elderly.
If treatment with medications (there are more than 20 anti-epileptic drugs) isn't successful in controlling seizures, an EEG has been used to locate and surgically remove an epileptic focus, the source of seizure activity in the brain, to treat the seizures. Vagal nerve stimulation is another treatment option in some cases.
With more sophisticated imaging techniques, such as functional MRI (fMRI), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), along with traditional MRI and PET scans, doctors have been able to more precisely localize “epileptic foci” in the brain.
In addition to epilepsy, certain injuries to the brain, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke (CVA), brain tumors, and infections (e.g., meningitis), may cause “acquired epilepsy” in some patients.
Co-morbid conditions that are seen in patients who have epilepsy may include depression, as well as certain cognitive and behavioral impairments. There has also been research done in “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy” (SUDEP) that suggests a link to cardiac dysfunction.
Since 1995, when the first gene linked to epilepsy was discovered, dozens of other genes associated with epilepsy have been found.
Types and Symptoms of Seizures
Symptoms of a seizure may include temporary confusion. uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs, loss of consciousness, and cognitive or emotional symptoms, such as fear, anxiety or an experience of “déjà vu.”
There are mainly two types of seizures … focal and generalized seizures.
A focal seizure (sometimes called a petit-mal seizure) represents a localized burst of electrical activity in just one area of the brain. A loss of consciousness may or may not occur with a focal seizure. More often the symptoms of a focal seizure, rather than loss of consciousness, may include a temporary loss of awareness such as staring into space, failing to respond to questions or to others in your environment, and repetitive movements or activities.
Some focal seizures affect the way you perceive sound, smell, or taste, or cause tingling, dizziness or flashing lights, like a migraine headache.
A generalized seizure (sometimes called a grand-mal seizure) is a seizure that involves a large portion of the brain or the whole brain itself rather than just one small localized area. “Tonic-clonic” seizures can cause a sudden loss of consciousness, with shaking of the whole body, tongue-biting, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
Documentation of frequency, severity, fatigue, side effects of medications can be important for establishing a record of why you are disabled from a seizure disorder.