La Epilepsia – understanding epilepsy in the Latino community

  • October 5, 2022
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In this article

In a 2021 interview, LA-based fashion designer and social media influencer Camila Coehlo said: “I want to represent Latina culture and use my platform to talk about epilepsy and educate people”. Coehlo, who has Brazilian heritage, spoke of the challenges facing Latino and Hispanic communities in the United States when it comes to living with epilepsy.

Statistics indicate that epilepsy is more common among Latino communities in the United States compared to other ethnic groups. What is more, many Hispanic and Latino communities struggle to get the resources and support they need. Let's learn more about la epilepsia in Latino communities in the US, and information about where you can get support.

How epilepsy affects Latino communities in the USA

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, there are 3.4 million people in the United States who have epilepsy, of which 710,000 are Latino. This means that about 20% of people with epilepsy in the US are Latino, whereas 19% of people in the US identify as Hispanic/Latino. This means a slightly higher proportion of Latinos have epilepsy compared to other groups.

Among US born Latinos, epilepsy is no more common than among non-Latino whites (according to experts cited in a Brain and Life article). However, among Latinos born outside of the United States, rates of epilepsy are higher. This could be down to a few different factors:

  • Neurocysticercosis - this is a parasite infection that can cause brain damage and seizures. It is prevalent in Mexico, Central America and some rural parts of South America.
  • Strokes - according to one expert, Latinos are more likely to have strokes caused by high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Awareness – There may be less awareness of the signs and symptoms of epilepsy in some Latino communities.

Related: Epilepsy in the African American community

Glossary - terms for epilepsy and seizures in Spanish

Wondering how to say ‘seizure’ in Spanish, or another epilepsy term? Use our glossary to translate key phrases:

English term > Spanish term

·      Seizure > Convulsión

·      Focal seizure > Convulsión focal

·      Generalized seizure > Convulsióngeneralizada

·      Tonic clonic seizures > Convulsionestonicoclónicas

·      Absence seizures > Convulsiones deausencia

·      Anti-epileptic drugs > Fármacosantiepilépticos

·      Seizure trigger > Desencadenante deconvulsión

·      Refractory epilepsy > EpilepsiaRefractaria

·      Photosensitivity > Fotosensibilidad

Epilepsy challenges for Latino communities

Latino communities in the United States face certain challenges when it comes to managing epilepsy, according to studies:

  • Language barriers: Problems communicating in English can mean that epilepsy does not get treated as effectively among Latino communities compared to English speaking groups.
  • Stigma and cultural issues: In some Hispanic cultures, there continues to be stigma around epilepsy, where it may be viewed with shame or people try to keep it out of sight. This can cause delays when it comes to getting the condition treated.
  • Health insurance: Statistics indicate that Latino and Hispanic communities in the United States are less likely to have health insurance - which can make it harder to access appropriate healthcare to manage epilepsy.
  • Mental health: Research has also found that Latinos and Hispanics in the US are more likely to be living with depression and seizure anxiety than non-Hispanic whites. They are also less likely to be receiving antidepressant medication.

Support for la epilepsia

If you - or someone you know - are suffering with epilepsy or undiagnosed seizures, try to:

  • Visit a doctor as soon as possible: They can do tests to help diagnose your seizures and offer treatments to bring them under control. If you are not confident speaking English, bring along a friend or request an interpreter.
  • Learn about epilepsy: The Epilepsy Foundation recently launched a website in Spanish where you can find key information about seizures, safety and treatments.  
  • Join communities: There are numerous online and in-person epilepsy communities in Spanish, Portuguese and English where you can find more support and information.
  • Download Epsy: The app helps you record when you had seizures and reminds you to take your medication - and much more. 

Download Epsy for iPhone or Android

By taking the time to learn more about epilepsy and getting the right treatment, you can manage your seizures better. And as Camila Coelho says, “once you accept and love yourself for who you are, things will change for you in positive ways”.

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