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Chief Justice John Roberts Has Seizure

10 Questions and Answers on Roberts' Seizure

What are the some of the side effects of those medications?

Well, we certainly try and find a medication -- and it may take a couple of tries -- to find a medication that has no side effects and is well tolerated. But for most people, taking a seizure medication doesn't impact their life in any significant way other than the need to take a pill every day. Certainly, seizure medications have side effects, but we can usually match a medication to a person so that those side effects are minimized.

Are there other treatments that would be considered, or are antiseizure medications the main thing?

At this point, really the only treatment that would be appropriate would be nothing or antiseizure medications.

Is there any reason Roberts wouldn't be able to return to the bench in October, knowing what we know now?

Absolutely not. The very important message is that even people with epilepsy or seizure disorders are capable of maintaining activity in all walks of life. I certainly know people who have seizure disorders who are physicians, attorneys, judges, and every walk of life.

The other important message is that this was a very public event -- being taken to the hospital, etc. -- the public eye is upon him. But there are many people who have seizure disorders that are walking around [and] their co-workers would have no idea that they have seizure disorders. In fact, the prevalence is very high. Some numbers that are thrown around are half a percent -- one in every 200 people -- so it's very unlikely that anybody is working in a large workplace where there isn't one person with a seizure disorder.

I think that the most important take-home message is that seizures don't prevent you from living a full and important life and that they can be effectively treated with medicine, and that they're nothing to be ashamed of. I think having one like this that's out in the open is a very important thing because there is a lot of stigma against people who have seizures, for whatever reason. This is a good example that it's nobody's fault, it's not associated with some kind of mental illness; it is just a medical disorder that can be treated.

Why might there have been such a long lag time between Roberts' seizures?

I have had patients who had one seizure remotely and then another a very long time afterwards. However, if you question them closely, a subportion of those will actually report that they've been having funny events that they did not identify as seizures.

For the average person walking around who's not a medical person, a seizure means one thing and one thing only and that is fall to the ground, foam at the mouth, shake all over, which we call a generalized tonic-clonic convulsion. And that's the only thing in their head that's a seizure. So anything else that happens that's unusual, they won't count as a seizure.

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