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, your lifestyle and recreational activities, plus any other health conditions you may have. Having epilepsy, like many other long-term conditions, may mean you have to modify some aspects of your life.

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 can impact on your seizures. So learning about lifestyle issues that can affect epilepsy will help you 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 create 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 happens to best keep you as safe as possible. This can be as simple  as having alarms that activate family or neighbours when something happens.

Make changes in your home environment to reduce the risk of physical injury during a seizure. For instance padding sharp corners, removing things that may cause you to trip, installing a door that opens both ways (especially in the bathroom so people can access if you have a seizure), non shattering shower screens etc.

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% but 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 

Excessive 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

The risk for someone living with epilepsy to have a mental health condition is higher than the general population. Anxiety and depression are common.

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. 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
  • 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

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:

  • 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.

You may need to set medication reminders or have a system in place such as medication at meal times, if you frequently forget to take medications.

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 density over time. This can increase risk of fractures.

This is one reason why it is important to continue having annual reviews of your epilepsy 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.

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.

Your life shouldn’t have to be restricted to staying at home being safe.

Where an activity may appear risky, for example water skiing, 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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