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Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy affects about 2 million people in the United States and is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. Delayed recognition of these seizures and inadequate treatment increases the risk for additional seizures, disability, decreased health-related quality of life and, in rare instances, death.

Photo: Father smiling with son and daughter Although epilepsy can occur at any age, the condition is more likely to begin among children less than 2 years of age and adults older than 65 years. As do many who live with other chronic disorders, those with epilepsy often face challenges related to managing epilepsy treatment, symptoms, disability, lifestyle limitations, emotional stress, and stigma.

CDC’s Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) Network is composed of individuals interested in improving the care of people with epilepsy. MEW Network members, including representatives from U.S. universities, community-based organizations, and CDC are working together to develop and test self-management programs and tools that help people with epilepsy better manage their disorder and improve their quality of life.

Photo: Senior couple walking dogMEW programs available to communities include WebEase, UPLIFT, and PEARLS. WebEase (Epilepsy Awareness Support and Education) is an Internet self-management program designed to improve medication adherence, stress management, and sleep. UPLIFT (Using Practice and Learning to Increase Favorable Thoughts) is an Internet and telephone program that combines cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness to treat depression in people with epilepsy. PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives) is a home-based, collaborative-care depression treatment program for adults with epilepsy.

Interventions that are currently being tested by MEW network researchers include a self-management program that combines self-regulation and social support for adults with refractory epilepsy; an electronic decision-support system for clinics to improve self-management communication and behavior; and a consumer-driven self-management program. New projects include a telephone intervention for rural dwelling adults with epilepsy and cognitive impairment, and self-management training for adults with epilepsy and co-existing serious mental illness.

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