Patients with epilepsy may be unable to work because of their disease and its related complications. Patients who find themselves unable to work because of their epilepsy may qualify for long term disability (LTD) benefits. The insurance company will review their claim to see if they qualify under the conditions of that plan.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures or convulsions. Seizures are the result of disturbed brain activity, and may cause changes in attention or behavior.
Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors
Epilepsy typically occurs when permanent changes in brain tissue cause the brain to be excitable or jumpy. The brain sends out abnormal signals, which results in repeated, unpredictable seizures. A single seizure that does not repeat is not considered epilepsy.
Epilepsy may be caused by a medical condition or injury that affects the brain, or the cause may be unknown (idiopathic).
Common causes of epilepsy include:
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA);
- Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Infections, including brain abscess, meningitis, encephalitis, and AIDS;
- Brain problems that are present at birth (congenital brain defect);
- Brain injury that occurs during or near birth;
- Metabolism disorders present at birth (such as phenylketonuria);
- Brain tumor;
- Abnormal blood vessels in the brain;
- Other illness that damage or destroy brain tissue; or
- Use of certain medications, including antidepressants, tramadol, cocaine, and amphetamines
Epilepsy seizures typically begin between ages 5 and 20, but they can happen at any age.
Symptoms vary between individuals. Some may have simple staring spells, while others have violent shaking and loss of consciousness. The resulting seizure depends upon the part of the brain affected and the underlying cause of epilepsy.
Most of the time, the seizure is similar to the one before. Some patients with epilepsy have reported a strange sensation (such as tingling, smelling an odor that isn’t actually there, or emotional changes) before each seizure. This is called an aura.
Signs and Tests
The doctor, usually a neurologist, performs a physical exam and takes a detailed look at the brain and nervous system.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) will measure the electrical activity in the brain. Patients with epilepsy will often have abnormal electrical activity on this test. In some cases, the test may show the area in the brain where the seizures begin. The brain may even appear normal after a seizure or between seizures.
Additional tests that may be performed include:
- Blood chemistry;
- Blood sugar;
- CBC (complete blood count);
- Kidney function tests;
- Liver function tests;
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap); and/or
- Tests for infectious diseases
A brain/head CT or MRI scan is often done to find the cause and location of the problem in the brain.
Treatment for epilepsy may include medication or surgery.
Medication to prevent seizures, called anticonvulsants, may also reduce the number of future seizures. Epilepsy that does not get better after two or three anti-seizure drugs have been tested is called “medically refractory epilepsy.”
Each medicine works in different ways, and some medicines work better than others to treat certain types of seizures. Keep in mind that if one medication treatment fails, another may be more successful.
Most of the following medicines do not actually “fix” the problems that cause seizures. Instead, they are intended to stop the seizures from ever occurring.
The following drugs are currently approved and marketed for epilepsy in countries around the world:
- Carbatrol ®;
- Depakene ®;
- Depakote ®;
- Depakote ER ®;
- Dilantin ®;
- Felbatol ®;
- Gabitril ®;
- Inovelon ®;
- Keppra ®;
- Keppra XR ™;
- Lamictal ®;
- Mysoline ®;
- Neurontin ®;
- Phenytek ®;
- Tegretol ®;
- Tegretol XR ®;
- Topamax ®;
- Trileptal ®;
- Valproic Acid;
- Zarontin ®;
- Zonegran ®; and
If epileptic seizures are due to a tumor, abnormal blood vessels, or bleeding in the brain, surgery to treat these disorders may cause the seizures to stop. Surgery to place a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) may even be recommended. This device is similar to a heart pacemaker.
Working with an experienced disability attorney will give you the best chance of getting the benefits you deserve for your epilepsy. Even if you have been denied benefits, that does not mean your fight is over. Many people are denied benefits the first time they apply. You have the right to file an appeal and try to get more information that may help your case. Getting expert help is often the difference between being denied and being approved for benefits.
While the process can be daunting, your experienced disability attorney will be able to guide you through the process. They do not get paid until you win your case. You can seek help without worrying about upfront costs or unexpected bills.
The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States. If you would like to talk to an experienced disability lawyer about your epilepsy and its impact on your ability to work, call us at (888) 321-8131. We would be happy to evaluate your case and to discuss how to help you through the appeal process.