Historically, men’s health has been given low priority because men have not been very good advocates for their own cause. Men don’t seek medical help as often as women – only when they’re feeling very sick or are unable to work. Male poor health, both physical and emotional, can affect families, relationships, communities and the workplace.
Men and epilepsy
Epilepsy affects men and women comparatively equally. Being diagnosed with epilepsy can mean minor or major modifications to lifestyle, depending on your current situation and lifestyle.
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, to women. This can translate to different seizure triggers as well.
The impact of epilepsy can differ between genders across the ages. For instance: 
- Males have a higher rate of status epilepticus, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and death compared to females
- Males pursue epilepsy surgery quoting driving, physical activity limitations and financial worries as their main concern compared to females who more so worry about pregnancy and fatigue
- Both men and women with epilepsy tend to have slightly different problems with reproduction.
Changes because of epilepsy
How epilepsy affects someone is very individual and dependent upon their current situation. There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to help maintain a healthy lifestyle – and in the case of epilepsy – help gain seizure control.
Some life changes that may occur include:
- Change in role – family, friends and workplace. If the role changes are significant, particularly gender role conflicts, men often have low self-esteem, anxiety problems with intimacy, marital and relationship problems, and higher degrees of personal stress. This may cause difficulties in planning a future.
- Change in employment – many men define themselves by their jobs. Their primary focus is on their jobs because that’s where their identity is. The employment problems of people with epilepsy cannot be reduced to just seizures. They are a combined result of seizures and a number of other factors such as:
- stigma, negative attitudes and lack of understanding about epilepsy by employers,
- lack of education or experience and difficulties with learning and memory,
- safety concerns, sometimes unfounded,
- social isolation and difficulties with transport.
- Unemployment – appears to be at least two to three times that of the general population
- 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 are capable of performing – providing less income and less self-assurance.
- Change in income – economic factors can affect men’s health. Loss in or reduction of income can lead to issues such as stress – relationship, financial, work, poor nutrition and lifestyle, and people become less able to practice better health behaviours. A diagnosis of epilepsy can lead to increased costs of transport, medical tests, doctors’ visits and medications.
- Loss of drivers licence – impacts on role, employment, social activities and most aspects of lifestyle. It can cause isolation dependence.
- Social life – Drinking habits and late nights often 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, 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.
- Impotence – some medications may cause erectile dysfunction in men. This can be discussed with the specialist and medications can be changed.
- Self esteem – all of the above issues can impact on self-worth and self-esteem and cause:
- Loss of confidence
- Depression and anxiety
- Withdrawal from society
- Taking medication – 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 done in conjunction with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor before changing or stopping medications.
The impact these changes have can vary from person to person.
- 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.
- Identify Seizure Triggers
Try to identify what can bring on a seizure for you. Common triggers are stress, 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 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 – Have a shower rather than bath, and turn the cold water tap on first to prevent burns, in case you have a seizure. If your house water has a temperature control adjust it to a lower temperature. Leave the bathroom doors unlocked. If possible cook using a microwave. Check your house and workplace to see if there are changes that can be made to make it safer. See our Seizure Smart Safety Fact Sheet for more information.
- 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.
For more information:
EAA Seizure Smart Factsheet – Men and Epilepsy