Historically, when it comes to health, men have not been very good advocates for their own cause. Men often don’t seek medical help as frequently as women – only when they’re feeling very sick or are unable to work.
Men and Epilepsy
Being diagnosed with epilepsy affects people in different ways, depending on their current situation and lifestyle. Gender can be a factor on how the epilepsy affects that person. Whether you’re a man or a woman, sex hormones can influence the excitability of nerve cells in the brain and thus influence seizure control.
Apart from biological differences between the genders, there are also different social roles and men often have different stressors, such as work or financial worries. This can sometimes translate to different seizure triggers as well.
The impact of epilepsy can differ between genders across the ages. For instance:
- Although epilepsy affects males only slightly more than females, there is a difference in the ratio of various seizure types
- Males pursue epilepsy surgery quoting driving, physical activity limitations and financial worries as their main concern compared to females who worry more about pregnancy and fatigue
- Both men and women with epilepsy tend to have slightly different problems with reproduction
- Males have a higher rate of status epilepticus, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and death compared to females.
Changes Because of Epilepsy
There are a number of changes that may happen after a diagnosis of epilepsy, and changes that can be made to help maintain a healthy lifestyle – and in the case of someone with epilepsy – help improve seizure control. The severity of these changes and their impact can vary from person to person.
Some life changes that may occur include:
- Change in role – within the family, friends and the workplace. If the role changes are significant, it can affect self-esteem, cause anxiety and/or depression, marital and relationship problems, and higher degrees of personal stress. This may cause difficulties in planning a future.
- Change in employment – employment and career is very important to many men, particularly if they are the provider for their family, or on the way up the career ladder. Seizures may force someone with epilepsy to have to change jobs or their role significantly. This can have a rebound affect and lead to depression or mood changes.
- Unemployment – appears to be at least two to three times that of the general population and can often happen suddenly if there are significant safety concerns if a seizure occurs in the workplace.
- Underemployment – because of safety concerns or undue concerns about seizures, or difficulty finding employment, people are often employed in a position lower than what they can perform – providing less income and less self-assurance.
- Change in income – financial struggles increase stress and ultimately affect health. A diagnosis of epilepsy can lead to increased costs of medical tests, doctors’ visits medications and possibly transport.
- Loss of drivers licence – this can have an enormous impact on role, employment, social activities and most aspects of lifestyle. It can cause social isolation and dependence on others. It is also a talking point, and many people, particularly men, may not be comfortable with telling people they don’t have their license because of medical reasons.
- Social life – Drinking habits and late nights usually need to be modified – which can impact on ‘boys’ activities and peer acceptance. This may cause feelings of anger, resentment, denial and social isolation – which can also lead to non-compliance with a healthy lifestyle and taking medications as prescribed.
- Sex drive – Many people with epilepsy report some change in sexual desire (libido), behaviour, or activity as a result of their epilepsy. The most common change is a general lessening of sexual interest and activity, sometimes called hyposexuality. Many factors can be involved in loss of libido including depression, anxiety, seizures and medications.
- Impotence – some medications may cause erectile dysfunction in men. This can be discussed with the specialist and medications can be changed if this is found to be the cause.
Self esteem – all of the above points can impact on self-worth and self-esteem and cause:
- Loss of confidence
- Depression and anxiety
- Withdrawal from society
Men, especially young men are keen to stop medication when seizures are under control. Stopping medication suddenly can cause more seizures and more severe seizures. Any changes in medication should be discussed with the doctor and done very carefully.
Always talk to your doctor before changing or stopping medications.
- Identify Seizure Triggers
Try to identify what situations can bring on a seizure. Common triggers are missing medication, stress, lack of sleep or over-tiredness, certain drugs or medications, alcohol, sickness, or you may have your own specific triggers. A common reason for having a breakthrough seizure (a seizure that occurs when you are controlled on medication) is missing medication.
It’s normal to go through feeling shocked, angry and devastated that you have epilepsy. A range of emotions, mood swings, turmoil and confusion are a part of accepting the condition. Find someone to talk to, a support group or online community, share it with your partner or close friends or find a professional. You can also call on us for advice and guidance.
- Be Active
Keep busy and continue your normal activities (unless your doctor suggests it’s unsafe, or find other activities that you can enjoy). Keeping active takes the focus off worrying about your seizures and is good for your overall health.
- Keep Healthy
Eat well and get enough sleep. People report they have fewer seizures when they lead a healthy lifestyle. When you first start taking medication it may make you feel tired. This is common and you should adjust to this, but try not to keep too many late nights and avoid too much alcohol.
- Be Safe
Especially if seizures are not under control. Think about potential situations around the home, workplace or during activities. Try to avoid situations that could be catastrophic if a seizure occurs – such as swimming alone, surfing, scuba diving, working at heights or with machinery. See our Seizure Smart Safety Fact Sheet for more information.
- Gain Knowledge
Learning about epilepsy is the first step to taking control, moving on, improving and managing your disease effectively. The more you know the easier it will be to put the fears and misconceptions of having epilepsy into perspective.
Make a list of questions and keep a diary of your seizures. These will help you learn more about your epilepsy and what triggers your seizures. It also aids the neurologist in deciding appropriate management.
- Find Available Assistance and Support Services
There are a lot of resources to learn more about epilepsy, what support services there are and what you can do to help yourself. Seek available support resources that can help you. Call or email us for further information.
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