Self-management is when someone with a chronic disease takes an active role to manage their own illness. It includes things such as making healthy lifestyle choices and informed decisions about treatment and actively monitoring and managing symptoms.
Here we have a number of practical tips that may prevent seizures and help take control of your life.
Learn About Your Disease
Try to find out as much as you can about your condition so you can understand and learn how to manage it.
- Knowledge can lessen anxiety and concerns by helping you understand epilepsy and feel more in control.
- You will be able to take a more active role asking questions and discussing treatment options with your doctor.
- A greater understanding of your condition can help you to identify your own seizure triggers or seizure patterns, which helps you to realise and possibly avoid what may set off your seizures.
- The correct information can dispel myths and make you feel more comfortable talking about epilepsy to others.
- By educating yourself, you can educate others.
Take Medications as Prescribed
Medications don’t cure epilepsy, but they can control seizures.
Taking doses as prescribed by the doctor is essential to gaining seizure control. If you have difficulty remembering to take medication:
- Make it part of a daily routine such as taking them at meal times.
- Set a watch or small alarm clock as a reminder.
- Use a pillbox or place the medications in a visible position as a reminder.
- Use a chart or calendar and tick when the dose is taken.
- Ask someone close to remind you.
Check Before Taking Other Medications or Supplements
Other medications, including over-the-counter medications, may interfere with antiepileptic medications or make you more prone to having seizures.
Many people believe that alternative or complementary therapies, such as herbal remedies, are safe because they are derived from natural sources, but this isn’t always true.
Just like medications, these therapies have effects and side effects.
Speak to the doctor before starting any complementary therapies; herbal medicines, homoeopathic substances and supplements such as Gingko Biloba, St Johns Wort and Evening Primrose Oil. These may affect seizure control for some people.
Read about using complementary therapies when you have epilepsy.
Brands and Generic Medications
There are also many different brands and generic medications on the market for epilepsy and your pharmacist may offer you one of these as an alternative.
Do not change brands until you have spoken with your doctor. Although there are only slight variations between some brands, this may affect your seizure control or side effects.
Read about Switching Brands
Be Aware of Seizure Triggers
Identifying seizure triggers and learning how to avoid them is important for seizure control. Avoiding seizure triggers can be very difficult at times. Weigh up the risks and look at the quality of life issues.
Common reported seizure triggers include missed medications, sleep deprivation and stress.
More individual seizure triggers can also include:
- Physical fatigue or exhaustion
- Emotional upsets, overexcitement
- Hormonal changes in females
- Low blood sugar
- Heat or weather changes
- Alcohol and drug use
- Flashing lights and geometric patterns
Keeping a seizure diary may be helpful in identifying your seizure triggers.
Be aware that vomiting and diarrhoea can also cause seizures because antiepileptic medications may not be absorbed properly and fluid and electrolyte imbalances can occur due to dehydration.
Most people with epilepsy agree that taking their medication regularly and simply being careful with their lifestyle minimises the chances of having a seizure.
Make any necessary lifestyle changes as discussed previously.
Keep a seizure diary
Seizure diaries can help to identify seizure triggers, and provide a good picture of seizure patterns.
Your seizure diary needs to include:
- Date and time of seizures
- If you were asleep or awake
- Description or type of seizure
- What happened before, during and after the seizure, if known
Medication taken and missed that day, including medication for other conditions
- Any possible seizure triggers
- General health and energy level leading up to the seizures
- Menstrual cycle for women
Keeping a seizure diary is a good way to identify possible triggers. To use our online seizure diary click here.
Join a program
A variety of programs encourage self-management through:
- Techniques to deal with issues such as frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation
- Appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance
- Appropriate use of medications
- Communicating effectively with family, friends, and health professionals
- How to evaluate new treatments
Self-management is now encouraged in many areas of healthcare, and with ready access to so much information people are now more likely to be involved in their own health decisions.
For more information:
This Way Up – a free online course to manage stress
Self Management Programs Australia
Some health funds may offer programs as well. Click here to see examples.