Seizures can be dangerous, especially for people who have to be in environments where they could get hurt or not be able to get medical attention in time. While seizures can make life miserable and frightening, they can also make going to work and doing a job safely next to impossible. Some people are eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, but applicants should have an idea of what kinds of treatments are available for seizure disorders and what the criteria for meeting the SSA’s listings entail before they talk to their doctors and go through the work of putting together an application for benefits.
What is Seizure Disorder?
People with a seizure disorder experience sudden, uncontrollable electrical disturbances in their bodies that cause them to convulse and lose consciousness. Seizures can also cause changes in behavior.
There are several types of seizures that range in severity, and they’ll usually last less than two minutes. If they last more than a couple of minutes, they’re considered a medical emergency, but if they last several seconds to a couple of minutes, they’re usually less severe.
Some people have a seizure after having a stroke or hitting their head, but some people have seizures for no apparent reason. Epilepsy is one common cause of repeated seizures, but there are several other reasons that some people have seizures. For instance, seizures can occur after a person takes some medications that lower the seizure threshold, such as antidepressants and smoking cessation medications. Low sodium, brain tumor, and lack of sleep can also induce a seizure. Infection-induced fevers, such as the kinds that would be caused by meningitis and COVID-19, can also increase the likelihood of having a seizure.
Having a seizure also makes many situations more dangerous. For instance, people who have a seizure while walking could fall and hit their heads. Activities like swimming, bathing, and driving a car are also more dangerous because of the possibility of drowning, falling, or getting into a car accident. People who get seizures are also more likely to have other mental health problems, such as depression.
Symptoms of Seizure Disorder
The exact symptoms that someone gets will depend on which kind of seizures they experience. One type of seizure, called focal seizures, can be accompanied by an altered consciousness or with full consciousness maintained. If the person has altered consciousness, they’ll likely engage in activities like hand rubbing, chewing, walking in circles, and other repetitive movements. Some people also stare into space. If the person maintains consciousness throughout the seizure, symptoms could include a change in the way that things look, smell, feel, and taste. Some people will also have one part of the body jerk involuntarily, and they might also have tingling in their limbs, see flashing lights, or experience dizziness.
Generalized seizures is a broad class of seizures where the entire brain is involved. There are several kinds of generalized seizures, including absence, tonic, atonic, clonic, myoclonic, and tonic-clonic seizures. Absence seizures are characterized by eye blinking, lip smacking, and loss of awareness. This type of seizure is most common in young children.
Tonic and atonic seizures don’t cause a person to pass out, but they can both cause a person to fall to the ground. Tonic seizures are characterized by stiffening of muscles in the back, legs, and arms. Atonic seizures cause people to lose control of their muscles, which results in them falling down.
Clonic and myoclonic seizures are characterized by muscle jerks. Someone who is having a clonic seizure will rhythmic jerking in the neck and face. Someone who is having a myoclonic seizure will brief and sudden jerks in the neck and arms.
Finally, tonic-clonic seizures used to be called grand mal seizures, but they still have the same features. Someone experiencing a tonic-clonic seizure will experience a loss of consciousness, body shaking and stiffness. They might also have difficulties controlling their bladder.
Treatment for Seizure Disorder
People who only have one seizure might not need any treatment plan because they might never have a seizure again. But people who have multiple seizures might need a treatment plan that minimizes the frequency of their seizures while causing as few side effects as possible.
If seizures are always originating in the same place in a person’s brain, surgery might be an option. Doctors remove the area of the brain where the seizures originate in hopes that the seizures will subside.
Vagus nerve stimulation is another type of treatment that can inhibit some people’s seizures. In this treatment, a device is implanted into the chest to send stimulation to the neck and brain that will hopefully inhibit the signals that cause seizures.
Responsive neurostimulation is another type of treatment that can help some people if they’re having seizures. With this type of treatment, a device is implanted on the surface of the brain. This device will sense when someone is having a seizure. Then, it will send an electrical stimulation that will cause the seizure to stop.
Dietary therapy is another option that can help some people with their seizures. Eating foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat will help regulate brain activity.
Medications are another treatment option for some people who are suffering from seizures. Some of the medications that are given to people include carbamazepine, phenytoin, valproic acid, oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, gabapentin, topiramate, and phenobarbital zonisamide. These drugs are most often prescribed to people who have grand mal seizures.
Disability Benefits for Seizure Disorders
There isn’t a specific listing for seizure disorders in the Blue Book, which is the guide that the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether or not someone is eligible to receive benefits for their seizure disorder.
There isn’t a specific listing for seizure disorders in the Blue Book, but people can gain benefits under the listing of epilepsy. One of the most important things that applicants need to be able to show is that their condition severely limits their ability to work because only about a quarter of people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders have seizures that are uncontrollable and make it impossible for them to work safely.
There are two different kinds of epilepsy listings in the Blue Book, including one for convulsive epilepsy and one for non-convulsive epilepsy. In order to qualify for benefits under the convulsive epilepsy listing, the applicant must have at least one seizure per month even after taking medications for at least three months. Additionally, seizures must either occur during the day and cause a loss of consciousness, or they must occur at night but cause symptoms that affect daytime activities.
To meet the criteria for the listing of non-convulsive epilepsy, the applicant must show that they have seizures at least once per week even though they’ve been taking medications for at least three months. Additionally, the seizures must interfere with daily activities and cause abnormal behavior after the seizure.
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 a seizure disorder, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.