One of the most commonly diagnosed brain disorders, epilepsy can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Roughly 3 million Americans live with epilepsy. It is a central nervous system disorder in which abnormal brain activity causes a number of different symptoms. However, it is most commonly associated with seizures. For some people, epilepsy can interfere with their daily life and can affect their ability to work.
Is Epilepsy a Long-Term Disability?
Epilepsy can be a debilitating condition that affects your daily life. Many individuals with the disorder suffer from physical and cognitive impairments because of it. However, in order to obtain long-term disability insurance for your condition, you will have to convince them that it is disabling. In order to do this, your claim must show how your condition affects your ability to perform at work. Generally, an epilepsy diagnosis is not enough to convince the insurance company that you are disabled.
Unfortunately, many people who are truly disabled do not get the help they need because insurance companies often take a lot of convincing. Below, we will discuss some of the important aspects of your epilepsy long-term insurance claim. It is often best to work with an experienced disability attorney to create your claim. They can help you with the claim process step-by-step, to increase the likelihood of your approval.
Disabling Symptoms of Epilepsy
Generally, the primary symptom of epilepsy is repeating seizures. However, there are a number of other symptoms that you may experience. These can also play a role in how your condition limits your ability to work. Additional symptoms of epilepsy may include:
- Convulsions without fever
- Extreme fatigue
- Fainting spells
- Intense headaches
- Loss of bladder or bowel control, often during fainting or seizures
- Memory issues and confusion
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Poor balance
- Short blackouts
When discussing with your doctor your condition, it is important to discuss any and all symptoms you are experiencing. This allows them to get a full understanding of your condition. This is also important for building your long-term disability insurance claim. It is also easy for some individuals to overlook their cognitive symptoms and focus on the physical ones. However, cognitive symptoms can often be just as debilitating.
Secondary Emotional Symptoms
Many people living with epilepsy also suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown a strong link between epilepsy and psychological disorders. This is because some areas of the brain that are connected to certain types of seizures can also affect mood and emotional stability. As such, you may be dealing with secondary emotional symptoms that can be important to address. In some cases, secondary emotional conditions can be just as debilitating. Be sure to discuss with your doctor any feelings of depression or anxiety, as they may be able to assist you with treating these as well. Additionally, proper medical reporting of these conditions can be vital to bolstering your disability insurance claim.
Your Inability to Work Because of Your Epilepsy
Generally, the insurance company will require proof that your condition has an impact on your ability to work. A diagnosis alone is not enough to convince them that you are unable to meet the demands of your job because of your condition. Rather, you need to show how it limits your capacity for work.
Consider how your condition affects your daily life, especially at work. Seizures can come at any time. Additionally, fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms can make it harder to focus at work. Your symptoms may make it harder to safely travel to work, as well. Those living with epilepsy may often use up sick days when symptoms prevent them from leaving the house in the morning.
Stress and Seizure Frequency
Stress can often exacerbate symptoms of epilepsy, especially seizures. Often, stress can be a trigger of seizures. A lack of rest can also affect the frequency of your seizures. Because of this, working long, stressful hours can be seriously detrimental to your health. The stress of your job or the increased frequency of seizures can also trigger your secondary emotional symptoms. Be sure to take steps to reduce stress where possible.
Types of Epilepsy
There are 4 types of epilepsy. Each has slight variations in symptoms, triggers, and parts of the brain that are affected. The 4 classifications are generalized, focal, combined generalized & focal, and unknown. Additionally, there are different types of seizures; motor, non-motor, focal, tonic-clonic, and unknown.
Those living with this type have seizures that affect both sides of the brain. Generalized epilepsy most often begins during childhood. However, it can also affect adults. They often deal with motor (physical movement) and non-motor seizures. During a motor seizure, they could experience:
- jerking motions
- limp limbs
- tense or rigid muscles
- full-body spasms
Non-motor seizures generally do not involve movement. Also called “absence seizures,” they feature different symptoms. These include:
- staring off
- sudden stop in movement or speech
- brief twitching
- fluttering eyelids
This type often deals with focal seizures, which only affect one part of the brain at a time. In some cases, the seizure can move from one section of the brain to another. Focal seizures often begin with an “aura,” which is a series of minor symptoms that signify an onset seizure. Often, this includes an uneasy feeling in the stomach. During a focal seizure, the individual can experience a combination of both motor and non-motor symptoms. These include:
- Muscle twitching
- jerking and spasms
- repeated motions
- waves of hot or cold
- lack of movement
- emotional or cognitive changes
Combined Generalized & Focal
Someone diagnosed with Combined Generalized & Focal epilepsy experiences all of the above seizure types. Because of this, they might experience a wide assortment of symptoms. Combined epilepsy is often linked with other conditions, such as Dravet Syndrome. Dravet Syndrome is a rare condition caused by a mutation in the SCN1A gene.
Unknown epilepsy refers to a classification in which doctors cannot determine where the seizures are originating from. Often, those with unknown epilepsy suffer from a wide assortment of motor and non-motor symptoms. Often, those with unknown epilepsy can experience tonic-clonic seizures. These generally have the following symptoms:
- loss of consciousness
- rapid, rhythmic jerking and convulsing
- trouble breathing
- bluish face from lack of oxygen
- loss of bladder/bowel control
These seizures will usually last between 1 and 3 minutes. If they last longer than 5 minutes, emergency services should be contacted immediately.
Unknown epilepsy can also have non-motor symptoms. Commonly, these include:
- A sudden stop in movement
- Vacant staring
Providing Medical Proof of Your Epilepsy
In order to receive approval for your long-term disability insurance, you will need to show proof that your condition is debilitation. In order to do this, you will have to show evidence of how your condition and its symptoms impact your ability to work. You will also have to provide medical evidence of your condition. The first step in providing this evidence is to show proof of diagnosis.
Providing Proof of Diagnosis
Your insurance company will need to see proof that you have been diagnosed with epilepsy before they even consider your claim. Generally, doctors will test for epilepsy if you are experiencing multiple seizures. Your doctor(s) may use a variety of different methods to test for epilepsy. In some cases, they may employ more than one of these. This can be helpful in confirming the diagnosis.
A neurological examination can be employed to test for epilepsy. This evaluation often looks at motor abilities, behavior, cognitive function, and more. This can help determine your condition and may narrow down the type of epilepsy you have.
Blood tests can be used to look for signs of infection, genetic conditions or anomalies, or other potential factors that may be linked to seizures.
The most common way to test for epilepsy is via an Electroencephalogram (EEG). During the test, your doctor attaches electrodes to your scalp, then records the electrical activity of the brain. Epilepsy may alter your normal pattern of brain waves, so this test helps look for these changes. It can help provide signs of epilepsy, even when not seizing. Some doctors may also record videos during the EEG to document any seizures you might experience during the process.
Further Testing for Brain Abnormalities
Your doctor may also run tests to look for or rule out additional brain abnormalities. These tests can also help further confirm your diagnosis, as well as the type of epilepsy you have. The findings of these tests can also be important in building your claim. Additional testing often utilizes high-density EEG, CT Scans, MRI’s, PET scans, and a SPECT test.
A high-density EEG is an Electroencephalogram test that provides a more precise brain wave reading. This allows for a more accurate depiction of your epilepsy symptoms. A CT scan uses X-rays to make cross-section images of your brain. CT scans are effective in spotting tumors, bleeding, or cysts that may cause seizures.
An MRI machine uses magnets to create images of your brain. It is helpful in finding lesions or other abnormalities in the brain. A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan uses a small amount of a low-dose radioactive material injection to help doctors visualize active areas of your brain and look for abnormalities.
A SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography) test is often employed when the high-density EEG and the MRI do not yield an origin point for your seizures. Using a low-dose radioactive material injection, a SPECT test helps doctors map the blood flow in your brain during seizures.
Neuropsychological testing can help doctors determine any abnormalities in your cognitive skills, speech patterns, memory, and more. This can help them determine what sections of the brain may be affected by your epilepsy or other factors. Neuropsych data can also be important in providing information on why you may struggle with the cognitive aspects of your job. As such, results and findings can be helpful in building your disability insurance claim.
What is Appropriate Treatment for Epilepsy?
Generally, your long-term disability insurance agency will want you to provide proof that you are receiving “Appropriate Treatment” for your Epilepsy. Otherwise, they are unlikely to approve your claim. Furthermore, you will need to continue seeking out and following treatment plans. Otherwise, the insurance company can terminate your benefits on non-compliance terms. While there is no cure for epilepsy, treatment generally focuses on reducing and preventing seizures. Your doctors may also provide treatments to help control other symptoms of your condition.
There are a number of medications a doctor may prescribe to help alleviate symptoms. However, some forms of epilepsy are more drug-resistant. In these cases, a doctor may recommend surgical intervention. Surgery is usually only offered after medications have proved ineffective, as brain surgery can have serious risks, especially in those with epilepsy.