In the middle of the global pandemic, my usually fit and healthy Mum was found unconscious on my parents’ farm, the cause of her collapse was unknown. My Dad called an ambulance, and she was taken to hospital. Three weeks and several seizures later, she was diagnosed with late-onset epilepsy which is rare but can happen over the age of 60.
This diagnosis was life-changing for my family, as my Mum began the journey of seeking the right balance of medication and adjustments to suit her lifestyle. She receives no warning when she has a seizure, so cannot put her hands out protect herself, resulting in other painful injuries. Whilst the high dosage of medication goes some way to control the frequency of seizures, it does not stop them from happening.
The Epilepsy Society
recently shared the news that a new study raises hope that people who live with long-term drug resistant epilepsy, may still enjoy a period of seizure freedom later in life. I immediately shared this knowledge with my Mum, whose mental health following the diagnosis was profoundly affected, assuming that she would never be able to achieve a seizure free life. Whilst this trial may not be appropriate for her, there is still hope as medical research may advance within her lifetime and the lifetime of others suffering from the condition.
The research, led by Professor Ley Sander, Medical Director at the charity, carried out a retrospective study of 226 people with severe epilepsy who lived at the Society’s Chalfont Centre. Results showed that 17% of the group enjoyed a period of at least two years seizure freedom in later life, despite having lived with long-term drug resistant epilepsy. The average age for achieving this goal was 68 years, and the average duration of seizure freedom was seven years.
People most likely to achieve seizure freedom were those who had experienced fewer seizures from the onset of their epilepsy, had no history of status epilepticus, and no accompanying psychiatric conditions.
Professor Sander explained:
“Our data reflects a group of people with the most severe epilepsies and associated learning disabilities. It also reflects a period when some of the newer, more effective drugs were not available. Consequently, our findings may underestimate the number who are likely to achieve seizure freedom.”
Importantly, the study also raises fundamental questions about the role that ageing may play in achieving seizure freedom.
The highest incidence of epilepsy is in people over the age of 65, yet people in this group also respond well to anti-seizure medications, have reasonable seizure control, and seem to experience fewer convulsive seizures.
Professor Sander explained:
“It may be possible that some of the causes of epilepsy in later-life are also responsible for the more favourable outcomes in controlling seizures.”
As this ground-breaking research continues, it gives hope to those living with such uncertainty and is hopes to limit the impact on life expectancy with more control over seizures.
We act for clients who may have also acquired epilepsy following a brain injury at birth, or acquired following a diagnosis of a brain tumour, or a head injury. Our clients rely upon the support of charities to help manage the long-term consequences of epilepsy and other conditions associated with such conditions.
If you or any members of your family have suffered injury or loss due to medical negligence, and you would like to receive free independent legal advice, without any obligation, please contact us.