One minute, I was walking across the cafeteria floor at a highway stop restaurant. Without warning, everything suddenly faded to black. The next thing I remember: Coming to face-up on the floor with an intense headache, a pool of blood forming around my head. My husband, a small crowd, and a concerned nurse traveling with her family crouched around me until medical helped arrived.
I had passed out and landed on the back of my skull. My resulting concussion led to a CT scan that was otherwise normal, and the doctors, following standard hospital protocol, sent me home.
That’s only one of many pass-outs and seizures I have had in recent years, the product of an epileptic condition that began to surface as I hit middle age. Since then, the seizures have hit like clockwork, every three months or so.
Epilepsy is the 4th most-common neurological issue to hit patients, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, which estimates that 2.2 million people have the condition.
Only migraines, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease occur more often.
Here’s a crucial question: Is epilepsy a disease state in itself, or a symptom of something else? The answer isn’t easily defined, and that’s where things get complicated.
According to http://cnapracticetesting.com/cna-practice-test/, Epilepsy can be caused by a wide range of factors – some known, many others not. Certain forms of epilepsy can be effectively treated, but many other epileptic conditions have no identifiable cause, leaving doctors to treat symptoms without ever defining their origin.
As a patient, I would like to see venture capitalists and medical device/drug startups take a deeper look at root causes and treatments. It’s a vexing issue, especially considering what I do for a living – I’ve written about biotechnology and later, medical devices and diagnostics for a number of years. And I’ve lost count of how many stories I’ve seen about promising new drugs, devices or diagnostic tools designed to identify and treat epilepsy.
Because many epileptic conditions fall outside standard diagnostic and treatment paradigms, the healthcare system isn’t set up to handle conditions that don’t fit into an easy-to-handle box.
Most hospitals, save for special centers such as the Mayo Clinic, continue to operate in separate silos. Although their providers try their best, they’re limited because each specialist works separately from the others. Patients end up struggling to break through the walls that separate those patient silos. Many give up trying. Collaboration is the exception rather than the rule, and its scarcity prevents healthcare providers and caregivers from thinking outside of the box or stretching to reach an unconventional solution. Device and diagnostics companies, in turn, pitch their products to these separate silos and aren’t encouraged to develop collaborative tools and treatments.
Of course, there continue to be advances. Doctors have a lengthy roster of medications that can help control epileptic symptoms for some people. Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) disclosed results from a pivotal clinical trial earlier this year that showed deep brain stimulation therapy for treatment-resistant epilepsy helped patients achieve major and prolonged periods with fewer seizures after 5 years. Companies such as Neuropace have developed implantable neurostimulators that help prevent seizures. There’s also Artefact, an innovator that developed a wearable epilepsy alert system.
Those options haven’t helped me, at least not yet. After more than 6 years dealing with epilepsy, I’m stuck between 2 things: Providers’ reasonable goal of treating and stopping the epileptic symptoms; and my desire to find their root cause. If we can solve this epileptic mystery, I wonder, can the cause be treated, and the seizures stopped for good?
Mark Hollmer is a veteran journalist who has covered the life sciences industry extensively for more than 12 years. He has written for publications including the Boston Business Journal, The Gray Sheet, FierceMedicalDevices and FierceDiagnostics. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MassDevice.com or its employees.