Having epilepsy as an adult can have serious ramifications on a person’s ability to work. Epilepsy can make it unsafe to drive, and severe epilepsy that medication can’t control can make it more difficult for people to keep up with many types of work that they might try doing. Anyone who has been diagnosed with epilepsy should know about the disability benefits that they might be eligible for if they apply for it with the Social Security Administration. And learning more about the disorder can help some people figure out what to do about their medical conditions.
What Is Adult Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a variety of abnormal disturbances in the brain’s electrical activity. This can cause people to lose awareness, have seizures, and experience unusual sensations.
The exact symptoms of a seizure can vary from one person to the next, and some people will experience multiple types of seizures. But just because someone has one seizure doesn’t necessarily mean that they epilepsy. In fact, in general, a person needs to have at least two seizures before it could be classified as epilepsy.
People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds can have epilepsy. Additionally, both males and females can have the condition, but there are several reasons that someone can have epilepsy. For about half the people with epilepsy, there isn’t an identifiable cause, but the other 50% of people have some kind of background that most likely caused or at least tipped the person toward developing the condition.
Some of the potential causes to developing epilepsy include genetics, head trauma, prenatal injury, brain conditions, infectious diseases, and developmental disorders.
Additionally, there are several factors that contribute to the likelihood of someone developing epilepsy. For instance, onset usually occurs in children and older adults. Having a stroke can also increase the chances of developing the disorder. Dementia and brain infections can increase the likelihood of developing the disorder later in life. And people who experienced seizures as children are more likely to carry epilepsy with them into adulthood.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
There are many symptoms that someone with epilepsy can exhibit, and the symptoms can vary according to the type of seizures that the person experiences. Some of the most common symptoms include staring spells, temporary confusion, loss of consciousness, uncontrollable jerking of the arms and legs, and psychic symptoms like déjà vu, fear, and anxiety.
Additionally, the symptoms of a seizure will depend on the type of seizure. There are focal and generalized seizures. Focal seizures occur within a localized part of the brain, and within the focal category of seizures, there are seizures where the person stays conscious and seizures where the person loses consciousness.
Focal seizures without loss of consciousness might cause unusual sensory experiences or even involuntary jerking of a limb. It might also change the way that things look, smell, taste, or sound. People having a focal seizure with loss of consciousness might stare off into space, and some people will do repetitive movements, such as walking in circles, rubbing hands together, or chewing and swallowing.
Another kind of seizure is general seizures. These types of seizures affect many parts of the brain at the same time. There are several types of general seizures, including tonic, atonic, clonic, tonic-clonic, and myoclonic seizures.
Tonic seizures cause the muscles to stiffen, often resulting in the person falling, but atonic seizures cause the muscles to loosen, which can also cause a person to fall over. Clonic seizures involve rhythmic body movements of the face, neck, and arms. Myoclonic seizures are sudden and brief jerks of the arms and legs. Finally, tonic-clonic seizures, which were previously referred to as grand mal seizures, involve a loss of consciousness, body jerks, body stiffening, and sometimes a loss of bladder control and the act of biting.
Treatments for Epilepsy
There isn’t a cure for epilepsy, but there are some treatments that can lessen the symptoms. Medications are the first and most common way that doctors use to try to control seizures. Some people will only need one seizure medication to completely stop all seizures, but other people might need a few types of seizure medications just to lessen the severity and frequency of the seizures.
In some instances, medications will not get rid of seizures, and that’s when a doctor might start considering surgery to try to control seizures. But since it’s brain surgery, doctors will only consider this option under particular circumstances. For instance, one of the criteria for brain surgery to prevent seizures is that the seizures must be occurring in a small and localized area of the brain. The affected area of the brain must also not be an area that’s important for basic functioning like speech, movement, hearing, and other necessary activities.
Some therapies are also options for people who are not eligible for surgery and don’t respond to medications. For instance, vagus nerve stimulation is a therapy that uses a device that’s implanted beneath the skin in the heart, which sends electrical stimulation to vagus nerve. It’s not clear why this stimulation reduces seizures, but people experience between 20% and 40% fewer seizures when they have this device.
Finally, deep brain stimulation might be the solution for some people. This treatments uses a device, which is implanted near the thalamus. A stimulating device is implanted in the chest, and this sends vibrations to the brain, which might lessen the frequency of seizures.
Disability Benefits for Adult Epilepsy
It’s possible to receive benefits for epilepsy through the Social Security Administration, but there are some criteria that people must meet. First of all, applicants need to have tried taking epilepsy medications for at least three months before they apply. Secondly, they must completely abstain from alcohol during that period of time because alcohol consumption can increase the likelihood of seizures.
The criteria is also dependent on the type of seizures that the applicant is prone to. In the SSAs Blue Book, there are listings for two main types of seizures: tonic-clonic and dyscognitive.
For tonic-clonic seizures, the applicant must have seizures that occur for four months at least once every other month. Additionally, the applicant must have a marked limitation in at least one of the following areas: standing, balancing, using their hands, or another physical limitation; understand, remembering, and applying information in a work setting; maintaining pace and concentrating; interacting with other people; or maintaining well-being and emotions in a workplace environment.
Otherwise, people with tonic-clonic seizures must have them at least once a month for three months straight.
People with dyscognitive seizures must have a seizure at least once every other week for three months straight, and they must have marked limitations in at least one of the following areas: concentrating and maintaining pace; controlling emotions; interacting with other people; ability to stand, move arms, or balance; ability to understand information, remember it, and apply it.
Otherwise, people with dyscognitive seizures can have at least one seizure a week for at least for three consecutive months.
Another option is to get disability benefits by using the residual functional capacity test, which is a test where the doctor sends the SSA a list of all of the patient’s limitations. Then, the SSA compares that list with a list of previous jobs that the person has held to determine whether or not there’s any work that they’re capable of.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Adult Epilepsy, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.