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Danielle on living with epilepsy and cerebral palsy

My name is Danielle! I’m 25 years old. I’m excited to share a little about living with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. I have been living with epilepsy for nine years and cerebral palsy my whole life. I live in New Hampshire, I love the mountains, and I’m currently an advocate for epilepsy and love being a voice for people with disabilities!

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic, noncommunicable disease of the brain with many possible causes. Causes may include illness, brain damage, or even abnormal brain development. However, according to the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, 60-70% of people with epilepsy have no known cause.

How common is epilepsy?

According to the CDC, 1.2% of the United States population is known to have active epilepsy. This is about 3.9 million people with epilepsy in the United States.

According to a journal article published in Epilepsia, “Epilepsy is one of the most common neurologic conditions in the world. This research team conducted a meta-analytic approach to available data on active epilepsy cases and determined that globally a more accurate number [than the one currently utilized by the WHO] is 68 Million. This data has since been referenced in JAMA Neurology, 2018.

For more info on epilepsy, visit our About Epilepsy Section

What is Cerebral Palsy

According to the CDC, Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.

The symptoms of CP vary from person to person. A person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care. A person with mild CP, on the other hand, might walk a little awkwardly, but might not need any special help. CP does not get worse over time, though the exact symptoms can change over a person’s lifetime.

All people with CP have problems with movement and posture. Many also have related conditions such as: intellectual disability; seizures; problems with vision, hearing, or speech; changes in the spine (e.g. scoliosis); or joint problems (e.g. contractures).

The relationship between epilepsy and cerebral palsy

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, approximately 25% to 35% of all children with cerebral palsy have epilepsy. A much smaller proportion of those with epilepsy have cerebral palsy. Epilepsy and cerebral palsy are separate disorders, but both can result from the same abnormality of the brain. Epilepsy does not cause cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy does not cause epilepsy. The two conditions simply coexist, and are differing signs of a brain abnormality or malfunction.

From Danielle:

Living well with epilepsy means fight to me. I have fought through epilepsy for the past almost ten years. It has been a roller coaster of emotions and struggle. In these ten years, I went from not walking and being wheelchair-bound to being able to walk on my own again. The fight isn’t over yet!

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