Epilepsy is a life-limiting neurological condition. People who have the condition suffer from seizures, which is when their brain goes through a disruption in normal activities. Not every seizure is an epileptic fit, however. In order to be diagnosed, someone needs to have had at least two seizures that were caused without any provocation.
Unfortunately, epilepsy can cause dangers not just to the patient, but also to people around them. This is because an epilepsy seizure can happen anywhere, at any time, even without any visible triggers. Because of this, people with epilepsy really need to impose a number of restrictions on themselves to keep them and other safe.
If someone is diagnosed with epilepsy, they will generally be prescribed anticonvulsants. These are designed to decrease the number of seizures had, as well as how intense they are. Around one third of patients find that these medications actually fully stop the seizures. Another third find they do exactly what they are designed for, in terms of reducing frequency and intensity. However, the final third find the medication does absolutely nothing. In these cases it is possible to have surgery to the area of the brain where the convulsions are caused, which can help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures as well. This surgery is effective in around 80% of cases. Unfortunately, it is very risky, which is why many people choose not to have it done.
People with epilepsy have to make a number of changes in their life. These include:
• Recreational activities – Taking part in recreational activities is often not possible. Swimming is absolutely out of the question, as a seizure in the water could lead to drowning. This is why people with epilepsy can also not have baths at home without someone being present. Sky diving and rock climbing are also out of the question. If the epilepsy sufferer has photosensitive epilepsy, it is generally not possible to visit the cinemas either.
• Driving – in most cases, people who have epilepsy are not allowed to drive. Obviously, if consciousness is lost during driving, this could lead to horrific accidents. As such, people with epilepsy are not allowed to use heavy machinery as well. However, if someone has been free from seizures for six months, whether due to surgery or medication, they can sometimes be allowed to obtain a license. In some states, they have to be free from seizures for a full year. Unfortunately, it has been found that a quarter of people with epilepsy have actually been involved in car accidents. Hence, it may be better to not drive even if they have been seizure-free. Unfortunately, not being able to drive may also restrict the type of work people are able to do.
• Work – Because most patients are not able to drive, many of them are not able to work either. At times, it is possible to learn certain skills that allow people to work from home. Working in offices that are accessible with public transportation is another option. However, many people with epilepsy become slightly agoraphobic, because they are worried about having an attack in public.
Epilepsy and pregnancy is particularly restrictive. Because the body changes during pregnancy, restrictions are often far more significant. Usually, all activities become out of the question and round the clock care should be available.