Lifestyle and Risk

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Epilepsy risks vary from person to person depending on the type and frequency of seizures, your age, the effect of medication, personal behaviour and any other health conditions you may have. Having epilepsy, like many other long-term conditions, can impact on lifestyle, and you may have to make some changes when you are diagnosed.

Making changes after a diagnosis is common with all health conditions. Talking with others and being informed is often found to be helpful.

The lifestyle choices you make will impact on your epilepsy and the management of your seizures. So learning about lifestyle issues related to epilepsy will help you to make informed choices about how you can enjoy your life and manage your condition well.

Living alone

There are always going to be some risks in living alone for someone who has seizures– but taking some necessary precautions and doing things to make independent living a safe and healthy environment, then it’s not something you should fear.

If you have epilepsy and live alone, have a plan if a seizure occurs to best keep you as safe as possible. This can be as simple as changing your home environment to be a little safer, or having alarms that activate family or neighbours when something happens

To remember taking your medication, leave yourself reminders or fill a pillbox with the weeks supply.

See our safety suggestions for making your home safer

Discuss your seizures with your doctor or epilepsy nurse and look into alarm / monitoring device options. These cannot guarantee your safety 100 percent can give you or your family more peace of mind. They may be helpful to you as part of a wider care plan but they should not be relied on as the only method for reducing risks.

See our Epilepsy Products page.

Alcohol and substance use 

Chronic alcohol or drug use in someone with epilepsy is dangerous and greatly increases the risk of seizures, injury and death.

These substances are often associated with forgetting medication, sleep deprivation, poor diet and poor health, all which can make some people more likely to have poorly controlled seizures. So, it is important you consider this when deciding whether to drink or take illicit drugs.

For more go to Alcohol and Drugs

See our Alcohol and Epilepsy Factsheet

Mental health

It is thought that 1 in 4 people will have a mental health condition at some point in their lives. For people living with long-term conditions such as epilepsy, this risk is even higher.

If you have any concerns over your mental health, your doctor can give you advice on what services or treatments may help, and refer you to the right person.

Sometimes your epilepsy or antiepileptic medications can affect your mood and mental health or vice versa, so it is helpful to know the signs to look out for which may mean you need to seek advice. Speak to your doctor if you experience:

  • feeling sad or low for long periods of time
  • feeling hopeless or helpless
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • feeling irritable
  • feeling guilty
  • feeling tired all the time, with no energy
  • sleeping more or less than usual
  • having no motivation or having trouble concentrating
  • losing interest in things you normally enjoy
  • losing interest in sex
  • eating more or less than usual
  • thinking about harming yourself or suicide.

If you have epilepsy and are depressed, there is a further increased risk of injury and death. Don’t let it get out of control. Acknowledging your feelings and raising it with your doctor is the first step to find support that may be helpful.

For more information on Depression and Anxiety

For more information on Epilepsy and Mood

Contraception and family-planning 

Females with epilepsy should speak with their doctor about the best methods of contraception to use as some antiepileptic drugs can interact or mix poorly with some types of contraception (and vice versa). This could mean contraception failure or perhaps a worsening of seizures. It is important you find the right contraception for you so that you are prepared for a sexual relationship and seizures aren’t affected.

 

Pregnancy

It is really important that women with epilepsy plan their pregnancies to ensure that the medication they are taking is the safest possible option for when they become pregnant, and seizure control is at its best. This helps to lessen any risks to both mother and child.

It is important to have a conversation with your doctor about how epilepsy can impact on contraception and pregnancy. Even if you are not planning on having a baby any-time soon the information will prepare you to make informed decisions when the time comes.

Pregnancy and having a baby may mean your medications or their dosage need to change, and your seizures may change too. These changes will continue once the baby is born until you are stabilised again post pregnancy. Your doctor and obstetrician can help with advice on this.

Continuing to take your medication as prescribed is important at all times, but especially during pregnancy, because keeping good seizure control is one of the best ways to keep both yourself and your baby safe.

For more information and tools to help you specifically during pregnancy, check out the website Women with Epilepsy created by Epilepsy Specialist Midwife, Kim Morley.

There is an Australian Pregnancy Register available where women with epilepsy can share information about their pregnancy to help inform future research.

Medication management 

Having a good routine for taking your epilepsy medication is one of the most important steps you can take to help control your seizures and reduce your risks. Many people with epilepsy complain of memory problems to some degree, so to help you remember to take your medications every day, some practical tips are suggested below:

  • Try to make it part of your daily routine like taking your medications at meal times.
  • Put your medications in a safe, visible place as a reminder.
  • Set a watch, phone or alarm clock to remind you.
  • Use a chart or calendar and tick when you have taken your medications.
  • Consider using a pillbox or ask your pharmacist to pack your medications into a pill pack. These usually have the day and time you are supposed to take the tablets.
  • Ask someone to remind you.

Take the time to learn about your medication and talk to your doctor about any concerns.

Other medications, including over-the-counter medications may interfere with how antiepileptic medications are absorbed, or make you more prone to having seizures. Always check with your doctor before taking any other medications or supplements and report unwanted side effects or reactions to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

Keep your medication in a safe place away from children.

Check with your pharmacist or doctor about what to do if you miss a dose of your medication.

Long-term treatment 

Some antiepileptic drugs are known to affect bone strength over time. Other long-term effects may also occur. This is one reason why it is important to continue having annual reviews of your epilepsy and your medications with your doctor – even where your epilepsy has been stable or you are seizure free. Your doctor can continue to monitor both your medication and your general health over time and to recommend any tests, diet, exercise, supplements, or changes that might be beneficial for you.

As knowledge increases and new medications become available your epilepsy treatments can be reviewed so you have the best medication available for your epilepsy type.

Driving 

If your seizures are not controlled, there will be certain rules and restrictions which affect your ability to get a drivers license.

It is vital that if you are told not to drive by your doctor, that you do not drive. This can seem very restricting, but it is the best way to keep yourself, passengers and members of the public safe as you could have a seizure whilst driving.

Attending regular reviews with your doctor means this can be assessed regularly to see if any restriction can be lifted or changed over time.

Driving information for people with epilepsy in Australia.

Recreation

Recreational activities and hobbies gives us pleasure, enjoyment and can have a positive influence on our mood.

If you have epilepsy you might worry that some activities will be unsafe, or no longer open to you, but this is often not the case. Your life doesn’t have to be restricted to staying at home being safe. Where an activity may appear risky, for example water skiing, discuss this with your doctor before you go and seek advice on any steps you can take to reduce any risks you might face because of your epilepsy or if a seizure happens.

Disclosing your epilepsy with the activity coordinator can also help, or consider taking someone who knows about your epilepsy to support you in case you have a seizure. In some cases, activities can be modified and common sense safety steps can help you participate safely.

Because epilepsy varies so much between individuals many questions about taking part in activities are best answered on a case by case basis.

Read about Sports and Activities for people with epilepsy

For more information about some of the lifestyle issues discussed here go to: Lifestyle Issues

 

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