Wednesday, August 31, 2011

29th IEC: Day Two: Can Epilepsy be Cured by Meditation? Can it be Cured at all?

What is epilepsy? The simplest working definition boils down to "the propensity to have seizures." Does that mean that if drugs help a patient stop seizing,  the patient’s epilepsy is cured? Most neurologists act that way; once seizure-free for two years, a patient is typically sent on their way unless they seize again.

But there’s a growing consensus that epilepsy goes far beyond seizures. In the words of Harvard epileptologist Frances Jenzen,  “seizures are often just the tip of the iceberg.” The underwater part can include all kinds of “co-morbidities” including persistent memory and cognitive problems, depression, headaches, and socialization problems. There is a hearty debate about whether these conditions are a part of the epilepsy or are caused by it. Some argue that the brain problems that caused the seizures to begin with also cause some or all of these problems. Others suggest that maybe the comorbid conditions are byproducts of having seizures. But either way, a fascinating discussion at one of today’s IEC sessions  shows that for many patients, the end of seizures does not mean the end of their epilepsy-related problems.

Mary Lou Smith, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, discussed longitudinal studies of whether cognitive, academic, social, emotional, and behavioral effects linger even when a patient’s seizures are controlled with surgery or drugs. Unfortunately, she says “the impact is substantial, even for those in remission and off of their anti-epileptic drugs.” Marriage rates are lower, IQ is lower, and self reported quality-of-life still lags behind the general population.

Even patients who’ve had successful surgery, are off all medication, and have had no seizures for five years continue to suffer. Though this group scores the same as a control group for seven other quality of life measurements, they remain less well adjusted when it comes to social function.

But for most others, who remain on medication, things look less rosy. “Stigma plays an important role in the lingering effects, but it doesn’t explain everything,” Smith says. “There may well still be underlying neurologic issues and other kinds of social and psychological issues, too.”

Smith is not minimizing the hardships caused by seizures themselves. “A life without them is definitely easier than a life with then,” she says. “But it is not necessarily better.” And it almost certainly is not all better.

Would continued treatment by doctors help? Or perhaps other kinds of interventions? Teaching compnsating techniques for memory loss, say, or treatment for anxiety or depression?

“It makes sense that they would help,” says Smith. “But the studies haven’t been done. We’ve gone through the research phase of documenting the problem, and now its time to start exploring solutions.”

Meditation and Other Alternatives

Another promising session looked at “Alternative, Spiritual, and Traditional Therapies for Epilepsy.” Speakers discussed ancient and traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Latin American and African treatments for and beliefs about epilepsy, and the effect of meditation on epilepsy. No reliable evidence  was cited that traditional therapies were effective at treating epilepsy. In fact, the combination of impotent and sometimes brutal treatments (one African treatment entails putting the heads of epileptic patients into latrines) and the litany of depressing traditional explanations for epilepsy (e.g. spirit occupation, bad winds, contact with a woman who has had an abortion) was very discouraging. The most hopeful talk was the last one, about meditation, delivered by UCLA neurologist Jerome Engel who clearly thinks there is some value there. Engel described reasons to believe that meditation might help control seizures (it increases hippocampus growth, increases fiber connectivity throughout the brain, it generates lots of activity in the mesial temporal lobe, where a lot of epilepsy is focused.) But at the end of that positive litany, he acknowledged that the studies on meditation and seizure control were equivocal at best: some even suggested that meditation could bring seizures on!

“There’s still no really good control study of the effect of meditation on epilepsy,” he finally concluded. Anticlimactic? You bet. But honest. Dr. Engel said he’s had one NIH grant application to do such a study turned down but he’s waiting on another. Let’s hope he gets it and so his next talk will have some harder data. 

7 comments:

beatris iversen said...

Thank you for the great article. Though I might differ with you, I've started meditating a few months ago and found that I haven't had an attack in about four months. Meditation also helped me with my constant headaches. Even though I still take my meds I believe that this was the only thing that helped me so far. I've been on medication since I've been 16 and today I'm 40 years old. My memory has also improved though.

Jalando St James said...

Hey Beatris, nice to hear that meditation has helped you.
What sort of meditation are you doing that is helping?
Very interested to know this because my roommate has it really bad.
The other day he had 3 seizures in a row.

Jalando

McAllister Craig said...

How my son survived epilepsy.
My son at the age of 13 suffered from terrible seizures as a result of the terrible condition called epilepsy according to EEG results and this was very humiliating and life threatening because he was continuously on life support drugs and medicines but none seemed to cure all they did was revive him and the seizure kept coming to him this lasted for 8 more years. The last time he had seizure in may last year i was called where i worked that my son had a terrible seizure, he was also revived from that but that day i wept. I was fortunate enough to explain my ordeal to a friend who invited Dr. Joseph who came and started treating my son with his medicine at our house for two months and in 3 months the seizure never happened again they were gone and even up till now he is very fine without any epileptic symptoms. Today he is 22 and i believe he has been cured. I think Epilepsy has a cure simply try to reach the doctor on (josephalberteo@gmail.com) for more information about his treatment process or how to get his medicine. Do not give up on yourself, i hope my son's story motivates you.

Francesca Mcniel said...

How my daughter was saved from grand mal seizure.
I am not really a fan of sharing my personal private story on the internet but i decided to do this because this joy is too voluminous for me to hide. My daughter which i took over 8 years after marriage to conceive had her first seizure at age 6 and ever since then it has been from one seizure to another in school, in church, at picnics. This got me worried because she has a bright future that i do not want epilepsy to become a hindrance, i tried several doctors in Texas and none could help with an effective cure. I went on the internet and saw testimonies about a treatment for epilepsy which a doctor offered and i was interested, i got in contact with him and i was able to get the medicine for my daughter which she used for 3 months as he instructed and it has been over 6 months now she is doing just fine without any allergies or aftermath effects. If you are suffering problem try to reach him too on (josephalberteo@gmail.com) i can count on him for a cure for you too.

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Makaya said...


HOW MY BABY GIRL BABY OVERCAME CONSTANT SEIZURES.

I am sharing this story as a mother. It could help mothers out there who their love ones are going through pains from seizures. My baby girl was 4 years old when she had 7 episodes of epileptic seizures for straight 8 months. Six episodes were with fever and 1 seizure without fever. We used Valparin twice a day but my baby seizures got worse and she developed other health complications. My child was going through pain and I was afraid of leaving her alone to herself so I constantly watched her.
To help my child overcome these frequent traumas, I went in search of medication outside the English medications we had used without result. I was lucky to read in the internet about a mother whose 15 years old child was cured from epilepsy through herbal medication. I contacted the doctor through an email address I got from a testimony shared on the internet. I used his medication for my baby and the seizures stopped. I wanted to make sure that it has cured my child, so we went for EEG and MRI scan all reports showed normal!. My baby girl is 7 years seizure free., and I am happy to tell it to the world, that there is a cure! Don't give up on that situation. You may contact Mohan, where I found a cure for my child via drajaymohanbose@gmail.com

jacky scob said...

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