Epilepsy Facts

18. Jan, 2016

Famous People with Epilepsy

There have always been people with epilepsy. Since the dawn of time, epilepsy has affected millions of people, from beggars to kings. It is one of the oldest conditions of the human race. 

The earliest references to epilepsy date back to the fifth millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia, where epileptic auras, generalized convulsions and other aspects of what these ancient people called "the falling sickness" were recorded with remarkably accurate descriptions. 

Some ancient people thought epileptic seizures were caused by evil spirits or demons that had invaded a person's body. Priests attempted to cure people with epilepsy by driving the demons out of them with magic and prayers. This superstition was challenged by ancient physicians like Atreya of India and later Hippocrates of Greece, both of whom recognized a seizure as a dysfunction of the brain and not a supernatural event. 

Nevertheless, the superstitious interpretation of epilepsy persisted for centuries, and still exists in some parts of the world. Attitudes of past societies toward epilepsy have left a legacy of stigma and damaging misconceptions which still persist today. Many people with epilepsy continue to face fear, prejudice and discrimination in their everyday lives. 

On the other hand, epileptic seizures have a power and symbolism which, historically, have suggested a relationship with creativity or unusual leadership abilities. Scholars have long been fascinated by evidence that prominent religious leaders, political leaders, philosophers, and many who achieved greatness in the arts and sciences suffered from epilepsy. 

Aristotle was apparently the first to connect epilepsy and genius. His catalogue of "great epileptics" (which included Socrates) was added to during the Renaissance. Only people from Western culture were included, however. So strong was this tradition that even in the nineteenth century, when new names of "great epileptics" were added, they were rarely chosen from among people in other parts of the world. Working from this biased historical legacy, the famous people with epilepsy that we know about are primarily white males. 

We know that epilepsy involves temporary bursts of excessive electrical activity in different locations in the brain, locations which house our bodily sensations and functions, as well as our memories and emotions. Psychiatrist Dr. David Bear states that the abnormal brain activity found in temporal lobe epilepsy can play a role in creative thinking and the making of art by uniting sensitivity, insight and sustained, critical attention. 

According to Dr. Bear: "A temporal lobe focus in the superior individual may spark an extraordinary search for that entity we alternately call truth or beauty." 

Nowadays, modern medicine can diagnose Epilepsy far more accurately than in past centuries. However, many of the world's most famous people are historically recorded as having had seizures. People with epilepsy have excelled in every area. What follows is a list of people who are responsible for changing civilization as we know it, all of whom are strongly suspected or known to have had epilepsy. It's an impressive group.

AUTHORS:SPORTS FIGURES: Charles Dickens Tony Greig (Cricket) Dante Terry Marsh (Boxer) Sir Walter Scott Greg Walker (Baseball) Lord Byron Wally Lewis (Rugby) Alfred, Lord Tennyson Paul Wade (Aussie Football) Moliere Allen Faneca (NFL) Lewis Carroll Chandra Gunn (Women's Hockey)Fyodor Dostoevsky Bobby Jones (Basketball) Leo Tolstoy Garry Howatt (NHL) Gustave Flaubert Derek Morris (NHL) Agatha Christie  Truman Capote MILITARY & POLITICAL LEADERS: Edgar Allen Poe Alexander the Great  Julius Caesar RELIGIOUS LEADERS: Hannibal Saint Paul King Louis XIII (France)Joan of Arc King Charles V (Spain) Martin Luther Napolean Bonaparte Pope Pius IX Peter the Great  Vladimir Lenin PHILOSOPHERS: Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President) Socrates James Madison (U.S.) President Aristotle PythagorasPAINTERS:  Leonardo Da Vinci COMPOSERS: Vincent Van Gogh Paganini Michelangelo Tchaikovsky  Beethoven ACTORS: Handel Michael Wilding George Gershwin Margaux Hemingway Schumann Richard Burton  Danny Glover SCIENTISTS: Bud Abbott Alfred Nobel Ward Bond Sir Isaac Newton  Thomas Edison    FAMOUS CANADIANS:  Neil Young  Emilie Dionne (of the Dionne Quintuplets)  

Health

The hidden epilepsy epidemic: Thousands of lives are lost to the disease every year - but deaths are blamed on other conditions, doctors warned.

People with epilepsy are 27 times more likely to die of a sudden death The disease is behind more deaths than Sudden Infant Death SyndromeBut experts epilepsy-related deaths are not being reported properly

Many epilepsy-related deaths are recorded as something else, medical experts say

Thousands of lives could be saved every year if 'hidden epilepsy deaths' were recorded properly, a new study claims.

Doctors have called for more research and education to understand and prevent people dying from the brain disease, which affects about 50 million people across the world.

Medical experts say misreported fatalities shield the public from the true extent of the neurological condition.

They argue epilepsy is behind more deaths each year the US than sudden infant death syndrome and fires, yet is not a public health priority.

'We have done far too little for far too long,' said nuerologist and lead author Dr Orrin Devinsky.

'Efforts to assess and prevent epilepsy-related death have been distressingly inadequate.' 

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures. 

It can occur at any age, though is more likely to develop in childhood, and be caused by factors such as stroke, abnormal brain development or illness.

The disease can trigger effects such as subtle changes in emotions to seizures and loss of consciousness. Severity of seizures can differ from person to person but can ultimately result in death.

The review, published in the Neurology journal, states that seizures are responsible for most of the 5,000 epilepsy-related deaths a year from incidents such as drowning, car accidents, pneumonia and suicide - as well as sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.

Yet epilepsy or seizures often do not appear on death certificates and as a causal factor.

Sudep - Sudden death in Epilepsy.