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  Epileptics are Special.

Derek Miller

Have you been diagnosed as epileptic? Are you a family member, or friend or partner of someone who has? Please be reassured.

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 with a rich and distinguished history.

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 disease" were recorded with remarkably accurate descriptions.

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.

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 prophets and other holy men, political leaders, philosophers, and many who achieved great-ness 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.

But what about this so-called "epilepsy and genius" connection? Certainly, most people with epilepsy would not consider their seizure disorder as something which enhances their natural abilities.

According to Dr. Jerome Engel, Professor of Neurology at the University of California School of Medicine and author of the book Seizures and Epilepsy: "There is no evidence... that either epileptic seizures or a predisposition to epilepsy is capable of engendering exceptional talents. Rather, the occasional concurrence of epilepsy and genius most likely reflects the probability that a common disorder will at times afflict people with uncommon potential."

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Dilantin: Know Its Side Effects
I've noticed that doctors on TV medical dramas, when faced with a seizing patient, cry out for the reliable standby drug Dilantin. Also known as phenytoin, Dilantin has relieved seizures in patients for the past sixty years and counting. But, like most prescription medications, Dilantin has its share of nasty side effects. If you have recently been prescribed this drug then you need to read on to know what you're in for. I'm not knocking Dilantin. I've been using it for nearly twenty years to control my seizures. But, like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. Common side effects of this seizure medication include clumsiness, double vision, slurred speech, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting (ironically the same side effects felt after a seizure). These side effects occur mostly when you begin taking the drug. Your body needs time to adjust to the medication. Even now I have bouts of dizziness, clumsiness, double vision, and slurred speech. Occasionally, Dilantin...
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