Epilepsy News: December 2017

Although I managed to publish a look back on this year and mentioned what’s coming for the year ahead on Tuesday, it was a bit too soon for me to publish what’s up for viewing today. However, if you’ve got a little time to look at my blog today, then I imagine you’ll enjoy this information about how epilepsy-related events have managed to make the headlines.

The Great Brain Waves

In Israel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers are now believed to have come across a useful biomarker when testing theta brain waves measured as part of an EEG. What they’ve found could potentially predict and even prevent epileptic seizures for post brain injury patients with epilepsy.

Post-injury epilepsy (PIE) is a devastating, unpreventable consequence of traumatic brain injury and stroke, and develops in the months or even years after the sufferer’s initial daunting experience.

However, the BGU team’s research discovered that theta waves could predict five different types of post-injury in mice and rats. Theta waves generate the rhythmic, neural oscillatory pattern in EEG signals, recorded either from inside the brain or from electrodes glued to the scalp.

EEG Test
Doctor’s have never really gathered anything useful from my EEG tests, so hearing about this was nice news to hear

The researchers came to find that a specific pattern of theta activity decline over time shows signs of epilepsy development. This pattern is also said to be associated with disturbances in sleep-awake cycles.

Scientific research also caught the news when it announced that specific drugs will hopefully be able to prevent the onset of epilepsy, although at the time they were still waiting for reliable biomarkers in the brain to proceed. By potentially predicting epileptic seizures, brain waves show great promise towards helping to trigger the eventual use of these drugs to prevent the onset of epilepsy in the future.

If you’d like to read more about this, click here for a link to the ScienceDaily website.

Treating Apnoea is Beneficial for Epilepsy

Ten days ago, I wrote an article that explained and offered a bit of advice on the clash of sleep disorders and epilepsy; something that I’ve certainly noticed in my life over the past ten years.

One important part of the information that I perhaps saved for this month’s Epilepsy News section was the recent news that treating Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) has been shown to reduce seizures among patients with epilepsy significantly.

It seems that after one year of treatment, positive airway pressure (PAP) provides patients with epilepsy better outcomes in comparison to patients with untreated OSA and no OSA.

Sleep apnoea was one of the sleep disorders I mentioned in my article, and although I don’t think I have to deal with this one myself, around 40% of adults with epilepsy do. In about 16% of those patients, the condition is also moderate to severe.

Part of the Sleep Disorder Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr Thapanee Somboon has stated that “All patients with epilepsy should be screened for OSA, and the condition should be treated, particularly in those with drug-resistant seizures”.

Although OSA is possible to pick up at any age, it is more commonly developed in a person’s middle age. Ridding people with epilepsy of the disorders makes sense because it almost seems to double up the difficulties that we have to manage; it interrupts sleep and produces a state of chronic sleep deprivation, which as I mentioned in last week’s article, so often leads to more seizures.

OSA also seems similar to epilepsy because it is associated with other negative outcomes such as mood and cognitive dysfunction, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and sudden death.

Now that I know more about OSA, I’ll do my best to memorise this data and try to keep an eye on my sleep patterns in the future. The signs that you have the sleep disorder can include taking one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Sometimes normal breathing can start again with a loud snort or choking sound.

It’s more likely that your partner will gather information about this than you, so make sure they’re aware of what could bother you so much in the future. Although I can’t put my name down for PAP therapy yet, as soon as some symptoms occur, I’ll be eager to talk to a doctor about it, for sure.

More facts and figures are available regarding seizure control and OSA on the Neurology Advisor website.

The Government’s Guidelines (After Campaigning)

It is perhaps thought that the UK’s government isn’t useful when it comes to strengthening the lives of people with disabilities. However, they have now added guidelines that talk about the risks of switching between different brands of epilepsy medicines after previous campaigning was made by Epilepsy Action.

When switching is made between particular manufacturers of epilepsy medicine, an increase in seizures or side effects can sometimes take place. This guidelines update is aimed towards prescribers of the drug, telling them to take into consideration people’s thoughts and concerns.

Lamotrigine Milpharm Brand
It hasn’t affected me, but my recent switch from Lamictal to Milpharm lamotrigine came out of the blue

After the government made this amendment, Epilepsy Action’s deputy chief executive Simon Wigglesworth said “We are delighted that the MHRA has listened to our recommendations and made important changes to the guidance on switching between different anti-epilepsy medicines. These changes have a much greater focus on the individual and take into account the potential risks involved when changing medication.

“The impact of this should not be underestimated and can significantly affect people with epilepsy in a variety of ways. They may not be able to drive or work and experience severe anxiety or depression as a result of switching medication. We hope the revised guidance will help healthcare professionals to better advise people with epilepsy on all aspects of their so they can live more safely.”

If you’d like to know more about making a different switch to other versions of epilepsy medicine, then Epilepsy Action holds further information about doing so.

One Show About Epilepsy Alone

Just over a week ago I came across news of a new theatre production that has been designed to explore epilepsy on stage in front of an audience. It includes shows taking place at the end of January and beginning of February in 2018.

Created at the University of Exeter, ‘Beyond My Control’ is a unique theatrical experience that combines improvised scenes, verbatim testimony and top mathematical research in a one-hour show. It gives the audience a glimpse of a life living with epilepsy, who after the show will be invited to offer feedback and given a chance to interact further.

As mentioned earlier, the University of Exeter holds the needed ingredients to cook up this unusual performance where science meets theatre. Credit for the construction of Beyond My Control specifically goes to Exeter Northcott’s Artistic Director Paul Jepson and mathematician Professor John Terry.

Their efforts have been made with two main aims in mind: to better understand the condition of epilepsy, and to explain the current undergoing key research that is looking to address it. To learn about the theatrical performance, just head to the Beyond My Control website, where you can also book your tickets if you’re interested in seeing it yourself.

Ski Away the Symptoms

Residents of the Epilepsy Society have now gathered a new option when it comes to finding their best quality of life; with skiing. Neurologist Professor Matthias Koepp is now hoping to bring a new joy to some of their lives by sharing a personal passion with them, and is currently training to become an adaptive snowsport instructor:

“I am a passionate skier and have enjoyed many trips to the mountains with my family. There is a wonderful sense of freedom and liberation as you speed down a snow-covered mountainside with the cold air cutting your face and a dazzling blue sky above.”

Many of the 100 residents at Epilepsy Society live in six houses in Buckinghamshire and tend to hold the most complex epilepsy and associated disabilities. However, some have now already enjoyed a skiing experience at Hemel Hempstead’s Snow Centre in Greater London.

Zermatt Skiing
Skiing in the shadow of Mont Blanc in Zermatt, Switzerland

Disability Snowsport UK has played a helpful role in providing this opportunity, after recently visiting the Epilepsy Society to give residents a taste of life on the slopes. After finishing his training in Zermatt, Switzerland, Professor Koepp is keen to interact with his residents joyfully:

“I am training to be an adaptive snowsport instructor so that I can get on the slopes with our residents and enjoy the thrill of skiing together.

“I know that several of our residents have already signed up to Hemel Hempstead’s Snow Centre where they will be able to experience skiing on the 160m real snow slope. I cannot wait to join them there and share their feeling of freedom and excitement.”

Six Month’s of News in 2017

Positive news about epilepsy has been the main focus for this month. It seems appropriate really; I enjoyed Christmas Day with my family and now only look forward to the new year as well.

It’s not been twelve months of blog writing a monthly overview of Epilepsy News – just six in fact – but now we’re at the end of 2017, moving into 2018 to continue this duty does seem appealing. I reckon I’ve managed to find my voice as a writer now and will be looking to start a fresh diary so that I can find more people affected by epilepsy, and get them interested in what I write. Each month’s Epilepsy News is one of the most popular blog posts I write, and I can understand why people find it interesting.

I hope you celebrate a new year coming in style and I’ll be starting January by making a new post as soon as possible.

Take care,


EEG by Sharyn Morrow / Zermatt 10 by Christian

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