What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system; it is also commonly known as a seizure disorder.
Seizures are involuntary changes in behavior, muscle control, consciousness and sensation due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Although not all seizures occur due to epilepsy, patients are typically diagnosed as having epilepsy if they have had two or more seizures not attributable to other causes. Because epileptic seizures are unpredictable and difficult to anticipate, patients with epilepsy often face challenges with common everyday activities such as driving, working, and participating in normal social activities. Children are especially affected by difficulties associated with epilepsy, as the condition can seriously disrupt their studies, play activities, and general social interactions.
Who is affected by epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a widespread medical disorder, affecting about 50 million people of all ages worldwide (0.7% of the population). It is estimated that as many as 100 million people will have one or more epileptic occurrences at some time in their lives. In Western countries (United States, Europe, Japan, etc.) approximately 4 million people are affected by epilepsy, with about 240,000 new cases diagnosed each year (6% of the current patient population).
Although epilepsy can occur at any age, nearly 1/3 of all new cases each year occur in children during early adolescence.
Classification of eplilepsy
Epilepsy can cause different kinds of seizures including: complex partial seizures (losing connection with environment), absence seizures (brief staring), myoclonic seizures (brief jerks), tonic seizures (a rigid violent muscular contraction, fixing the limbs in some strained position) and clonic seizures (repetitive forceful rhythmic or non-rhythmic jerks of the limbs).
Why is epilepsy so dangerous?
25-30% of all patients are refractory to drug treatment and continue to suffer from seizures on a regular or semi-regular basis despite treatment with anti-epileptic drugs.
Although seizures are generally not life threatening and typically last up to three minutes at the most, some will evolve to status epilepticus (a continuous prolonged seizure state that can last more than 30 minutes). Status epilepticus that last more than 1 hour can cause irreversible brain damage. About one million epilepsy patients in the countries of the Western world are likely to experience one or more prolonged attacks during their life time. It is impossible to predict which patients may suffer an event of status epilepticus.
Refractory epilepsy may increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). The rate of SUDEP is estimated to be 0.3-1.3 per 1000 patient-years in population based studies; these numbers are significantly higher than those of the general healthy population. In specific epilepsy populations such as drug trial series or surgical candidates the rate of SUDEP is even higher, reaching 3-9/1000 patient-years. SUDEP accounts for 10% of all deaths in patients with epilepsy.
The critical importance of fast action
Because epileptic seizures can occur at any time and have the potential for causing such tremendous harm, patients with epilepsy and their families are intensely concerned with close monitoring and oversight. Their biggest fear is that an epileptic seizure will occur while the patient is asleep or alone, leading to delays in treatment and the potential for serious complications.
This is why it is so important to develop a reliable, easy to use device that provides a fast alert when a seizure occurs. The faster the alert is triggered, the faster action can be taken to treat the seizure and prevent serious injury or, in the most severe instances, brain damage or even death.