Living with Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a condition which should not stop you from enjoying the delights of life. Do not worry, instead educate yourself. With the right knowledge, many have successfully managed epilepsy and live happy lives. Remember it is you who can make the difference in your life. Learning more about your seizures will enable you to handle them effectively and without anxiety.

What is Epilepsy?

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  • Epilepsy is a brain disorder which involves abnormal signaling by the clusters of nerve cells or neurons in the brain.
  • It hampers the normal pattern of neuronal activity, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness.
  • When the neuronal activity of brain is affected, the outcome is seizures.
  • Seizures are not synonymous to convulsions in which a person’s body shakes rapidly and uncontrollably.
  • Varying factors are responsible for epilepsy.
  • Epilepsy can occur at all ages; tends to start in infancy or late adolescence but the incidence rises again after 65.i

Signs and symptoms of Epilepsy

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  • Black out
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Eyes rolling up
  • Lip smacking
  • Making sounds
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Tingling / Stiffening in arms or legs
  • Twitching of one side of the body
  • Changes in perception.

Risk factors

Injury to your brain, either from external (environmental) or internal (medical/metabolic) sources can increase your risk of epilepsy.
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Genetic abnormalities inherited at birth may result in you getting epilepsy

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Additional risk factors that may instigate epilepsy involve – exposure to lead, carbon monoxide, other environmental toxins, certain illegal drugs, alcoholism, overdose or withdrawal of antidepressants or other medications and medication interactions.
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Some important questions

Is it necessary to take the medicine everyday even if I do not have a seizure now?

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Epilepsy is well-controlled if medications are continued. However, if no episode of seizure is experienced, post 2 years of medication discontinuation, then the long-term outlook appears good. But some type of epilepsy is found to be recurrent and so to discontinue the medication or not depends on the severity, the person’s age, overall health, medical history and additional risk factors such as any neurological disorder etc.

What I should do if I forget to take a dose of the medicine?

Compliance to the dose regimen is a must. But it is human to forget a dose; do not panic if that happens. If you realize your mistake within 24 hours, take the dose immediately and delay the next scheduled dose by 4 hours. Let’s say you are supposed to take an anti-epilepsy drug (AEDs) twice a day. At 6 p.m., you realize you forgot to take your morning dose. Take the missed dose immediately and wait until at least 10 p.m. to take the second dose.

Will I need to take the epilepsy medicine forever?

It depends on the type of seizure experienced, any other risk factors present whether the epileptic attacks are recurrent or not. Consult a doctor to examineall aspects before taking a person off the medications. It is recommended that you stop the medication gradually and not abruptly so as to lower the chance of a relapse.
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Will the medication cause side effects?

No medicine is free of side-effects.Side-effects fall mainly into two categories i.e., ones which are relatively common, but are not usually serious and those which are serious, but rare. Discuss with your doctor as to which type of side-effects are more likely to arise with the intake of the prescribed medication and decide accordingly.

Can I take any other medicine along with the medicine prescribed for epilepsy?

Some medicines used for indications other than epilepsy may increase the risk of having seizures arising out of their interaction with the AEDs or simply because they lower your resistance to seizures. These medicines include many of the antidepressants, some types of antihistamines, some antibiotics and some anti-malaria treatments. Always consult your doctor before using any such medicines.
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Is it okay to consume coffee or other caffeinated beverages?

Caffeine is believed to trigger seizures if consumed in large quantities by lowering your seizure threshold. If you suspect caffeine being the trigger for your seizures, try avoiding it completely.

Can I consume alcohol while on the epilepsy medicine?

Seizures related to alcohol abuse are more common than with any other form of substance abuse. Alcohol can trigger or worsen seizures when associated with alcoholism or binge drinking. Also, it is found that alcohol increases the chances of seizures by interfering with the metabolism of AEDs.

What hobbies/activities that I need to avoid?

You should avoid driving, skiing, motor sports and any activity done alone, unless your seizures are well-controlled. Avoid using stairs as an attack during such times may cause serious harm.

What activities I can undertake with caution?

Swimming, bicycling, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, running and jogging can be undertaken if your seizures are well-controlled while maintaining proper safety measureslike use of helmets, appropriate gear and presence of trained personnel like lifeguards.

What about participation in sports?

Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of seizures. You can participate in team sports such as football, rugby and netball provided the required safety measures are in place.
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Will epilepsy affect my chances of education, employment or marriage?

It is important to remember that most people with epilepsy are academically, intellectually and socially sound. Approximately, 70 per cent of those with epilepsy function effectively in society, have their seizures completely controlled and eventually come off treatment with few learning or behavioral problems.

What if I become pregnant?

Most pregnant women with epilepsy have normal delivery. But there is always some chance of damage to the baby arising out of a seizure attack during delivery. Seek advice from your doctor to discuss any potential risk and whether to continue with the current medication or to switch to a safer drug regimen. Do not discontinue the medication in any case.

What if I become pregnant?

Most pregnant women with epilepsy have normal delivery. But there is always some chance of damage to the baby arising out of a seizure attack during delivery. Seek advice from your doctor to discuss any potential risk and whether to continue with the current medication or to switch to a safer drug regimen. Do not discontinue the medication in any case.

What precautions you need to take while taking medications?

There is no one shot remedy for epilepsy but medication will prevent seizures as long as they are taken regularly. Never stop taking any seizure medicines without consulting your doctor.
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Tips for taking your seizure medicines:

  • Do not skip a dose..
  • Get your refills as soon as you can before you run out..
  • Keep seizure medicines in a safe place, away from children.
  • Store medicines in a dry place, in the bottle that they came in. Throw away all old bottles.
  • Set reminders to help you until you get used to the medication schedule..

When you should call or visit your doctor immediately?

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  • When you frequently get seizure attacks or when they have been controlled for a long period.
  • Side effects from medications.
  • Unusual behavior that was not present before.
  • Weakness, problems with sight or body-balance.
  • The person is pregnant, injured or has diabetes.
  • If thereis anything different about the seizure compared to the person’s usual seizures.
  • Another seizure starts before the person regains consciousness.
  • When the seizure happened in water.

Some steps to effectively manage life with epilepsy:

Do’s

Get adequate sleep and avoid stress.

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Prefer shower instead of bathe to avoid accidental drowning.

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Limit usage of knives or other sharp objects in the kitchen. If possible, buy foods that are already cut or ask someone to help in meal preparation.
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You can attend a community meeting.
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Exercise well.
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Last but not the least – take your medications properly.
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Do not smoke or light fires in the fireplace unless someone is present.
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When alone, avoid using stairs and do not clean roof top gutters.
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Take safety precautions while using machines and electronic items.
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Avoid driving unless your seizures are well controlled.
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Steer clear of any knownstimuli that causeyou seizures.
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Avoid drinking too much caffeine, alcohol and do not take street drugs.
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Avoid drinking too much caffeine, alcohol and do not take street drugs.
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What to do at the time of seizure?

Following steps need to be taken when someone gets an epileptic attack:vi

Myths & Facts

Following are the myths and facts about epilepsy:vii

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References

www.neurology.com

www.medicalcentredoncaster.co.uk/Library

medicalcityhospital.com

www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus

images.tutscafe.com

www.epilepsy.com