Managing the Threshold
Be aware of what can trigger your seizures and take special care to avoid them!
Making small changes to your lifestyle and forming some new habits can go a long way in helping you cope. Here are some tips:
- Enjoy your meals; both the food and the company!
- Do you really need to take on all that stress? Avoid it as much as possible. You are in the best position to know what situations cause you to get stressed. Avoiding these situations will lower the risk of having a seizure.
- Keep fit and enjoy physical activity! Start those daily yoga classes you’ve been thinking of for the past few months! Choose an activity that you really enjoy and find fulfilling. Only extreme sports like mountain climbing, diving, etc. should be avoided.
- Believe in safety and follow all the usual safety precautions, such as wearing appropriate clothing, wearing a helmet when cycling, etc.
Treatment for epilepsy can require taking a lot of pills, and it is easy to forget a dose or lose track of what you have taken. Consider forming a daily routine to ensure that you take your medication regularly. Using special dispensers that remind you of which medications to take at specific times can help you avoid missing a dose. Additionally, don’t hesitate to talk to your physician about your medication, as he/she may have useful suggestions to help you remain on schedule.
How can sleep affect my condition?
Sleep is widely recognized as being an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but it is especially important if you have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Sleep deprivation has the potential to lengthen and worsen the intensity of your seizures, so try to make it a priority to get enough sleep every night. Sleep can also help your body deal with the fatigue and stress that often result from epilepsy and its treatments.
How can stress affect my condition?
Like sleep deprivation, stress can also trigger seizures for some people with epilepsy. This is usually because stress can:
- Lead to hormonal changes that then induce seizures.
- Make you more likely to miss a dose of medication.
- Accompany negative emotions. The portion of the brain that regulates emotion is often where seizures originate.
While it is hard to completely eliminate stress, there are some things you can do to try and reduce your stress level.
Firstly, try to take the time to find out which situations, jobs or activities make you feel particularly stressed. Try to gradually reduce your exposure to these activities or, if possible, even avoid them completely. Try not to take on excessive amounts of work. Remember, the goal is to feel content and happy with what you do, not tense and anxious! There are also a number of scientifically proven ways to deal with stress, such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
Can I consume alcohol? If so, how much?
Many doctors will recommend that you try to avoid drinking alcohol or extremely limit your consumption. Because the amount of alcohol that triggers seizures varies depending on the person, this is one scenario where it is best to consult your doctor so that he or she can recommend guidelines specific to you. Everyone has a unique tolerance level, but some general facts about alcohol and epilepsy include:
- Drinking can reduce the efficacy of anticonvulsants.
- Binge drinking can cause potentially fatal medical emergencies.
- Introducing alcohol to your body while on medication can increase the sedation effect.
Are there any specific precautions concerning contraception and pregnancy?
You will need to make a few important considerations when thinking about the use of contraceptives or conceiving:
Firstly, you should consult your doctor about suitable contraception, as some epilepsy medications may interfere with oral contraceptives. Additionally, you should try to seek advice from a specialist when planning a pregnancy because there is a chance that some epilepsy medication that you might be taking could affect the fetus. One thing in particular to take note of is that taking folic acid before pregnancy and until the twelfth week can reduce the chances of certain abnormalities. However, it is important that you do not discontinue your medication in the case of an unplanned pregnancy; instead, see your doctor as soon as possible to discuss a suitable plan of action.
Are there any things to look out for when going through menstruation?
The frequency of your seizures can sometimes increase around the time of menstruation. You should try to talk to your doctor about the relationship between your seizures and your menstrual cycle. He/she may recommend that you see an endocrinologist or gynecologist if you are experiencing significant difficulties with seizure control during this particular period.
Are there any factors to take into consideration when driving?
All 50 states in the United States have certain restrictions on granting licenses to persons with active seizures that are not controlled by medication. There are detailed rules regarding the procedure for an epilepsy patient to obtain a valid driver’s license. However, each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has its own set of rules.
The general requirements require you to be seizure-free for a specified period of time and have a professional physician’s statement confirming that your seizures are under control. Additionally, for your state to grant you a valid driving license, your physician might also need to confirm that your condition will not present an unreasonable risk to your safety or that of the public around you.
If you already have a driver’s license and have been recently diagnosed with epilepsy, it is important for you to discuss with your physician whether it is safe for you to drive. He or she can help you make a more informed decision based on the specific requirements of your state as well as the medications you are taking.
What rights do I have for seeking employment?
It is important to know that you cannot be discriminated against on the basis of any disability arising from your condition. However, it is important that you make sure you choose to work in environments that will not be conducive to triggering seizures. Epilepsy does, however, prohibit you from doing certain jobs where the occurrence of a seizure would have serious consequences for others such as being a pilot. You also are not required to tell your employer about your epilepsy.
An extremely useful resource to use when faced with issues regarding employment and your rights and duties in the work place is the Americans with Disabilities Act. A part of the act specifically deals with epilepsy related issues and can be found here.
Do I need to take care of any particular issues when traveling?
Although most individuals with epilepsy can travel safely, long journeys and jet lag may trigger seizures as they result in tiredness and sleep deprivation. Everyone gets tired on long journeys, but for people with epilepsy this tiredness can become a seizure trigger. Make sure that you carry enough medication with you when traveling. Again, as with all other unusual or unfamiliar circumstances, be sure to consult your doctor regarding any specific issues particular to your case that you need to take care of while traveling.
Am I entitled to any benefits?
As an epilepsy patient, you might be eligible for certain benefits such as free prescriptions and social security disability insurance. Your pharmacist, doctor or insurance advisor can guide you better as to whether you are eligible for any benefits due to your epileptic condition. Usually, these benefits are covered under the Social Security Disability benefits. A valuable resource to start determining whether you would be eligible for certain benefits is the US Social Security Administration website which can be found here.