What Epilepsy Is and How to Live with It

Epilepsy is a pathology that requires knowledge in multiple areas. In this article, we'll tell you what epilepsy is, as well as some keys every epileptic patient should know to improve their quality of life.
What Epilepsy Is and How to Live with It

Last update: 21 February, 2021

Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness, as the Mayo Clinic indicates.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases around the world. Unfortunately, 70% of them don’t get the treatment they need because they can’t afford it.

Although living with epilepsy may seem like a real challenge, the truth is that prescription drugs tend to work very well in most cases. If you want to know more about what epilepsy is and the daily habits a person who suffers from this condition should follow, keep reading.

Lifestyle habits a person with epilepsy should adopt

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates, epilepsy isn’t the end of the road or the end of individual well-being. Drugs work in two out of every three patients who suffer from this condition and, in some cases, surgery and other approaches can be resorted to.

The Living with Epilepsy portal of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and many other sources indicate certain tips that can improve patients’ day-to-day lives. Below, we’ll briefly share a few.

1. Exercise

Exercise is essential for all people, as it promotes physical, emotional, and physiological well-being. According to the aforementioned source, several studies suggest that sports can raise the seizure threshold and reduce epileptiform discharges, which help to better manage episodes.

A woman with epilepsy running.
Physical activity could reduce the risk of epileptic seizures, which is why experts recommend exercising regularly.

2. Lead a social life, but exercise caution

Organizations that raise awareness about epilepsy in no case advise against patients leading social lives. We’re social animals and, as such, we require the company of other human beings to develop properly. Nevertheless, you have to be careful with certain factors:

  • Experts don’t advise against going out at night. However, be very careful with the strobe lights and noise of some establishments.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol and tobacco. The former is linked to seizures. Although the latter has yet to be linked, experts recommend reducing it for obvious reasons.
  • Get enough sleep. It’s been shown that sleep deprivation and disorders could trigger epileptic seizures.

3. Driving

This issue is controversial, as certain sources argue that scientific evidence estimates that people who have epileptic seizures under control have a low risk of accidents, while other studies affirm that there’s an inherent risk.

In countries like Spain, it’s forbidden for an epileptic person to drive if they’ve had a seizure in the last year, for their safety and for everyone else’s. Talk to a specialist or the department of motor vehicles of your country if you have any questions.

How to avoid a seizure if you have epilepsy

There are a series of measures to follow to avoid the appearance of seizures in epileptic patients. Some of them are:

  • Never miss a single dose of your medications and talk to your personal doctor if you feel strange or have any questions.
  • Get good sleep. Websites such as epilepsy.com state that not getting enough sleep can promote the appearance of seizures. Try to get seven to ten hours of sleep a day.
  • Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol excites brain neurons, disrupts normal sleep patterns, and can interact with epilepsy drugs. This is the perfect breeding ground for the appearance of a new seizure.
  • Don’t use drugs. Excitatory drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, or amphetamines can promote the onset of epileptic seizures.
  • Avoid leading an overly stressful life. Periods of stress can lead to poor sleep or make you forget to take your drugs.

How to help a person during an epileptic seizure

The National Library of Medicine of the United States summarizes how to act due to a seizure in several essential points. They’re the following:

  1. When a seizure occurs, the main goal is to protect the person from injury. Therefore, you have to lay the person who’s suffering from a seizure on the ground in a safe area. Clear the area of furniture or other sharp objects.
  2. After this, cushion the person’s head.
  3. Loosen tight clothing, especially around the neck.
  4. Turn the person on their side. If vomiting occurs, this helps make sure that the vomit isn’t inhaled into the lungs.
  5. Look for a medical ID bracelet with seizure instructions. The patient should be wearing one if they recently suffered from a seizure.
  6. Stay with the person until they recover, or until professional medical help arrives. Meanwhile, monitor their vital signs (pulse and breathing rate) as much as possible.

What you shouldn’t do under any circumstances is restrain the person, put an object in their mouth so that they don’t bite their tongue, or perform CPR or other resuscitation techniques. Just stay calm, position the patient correctly, and monitor them until help arrives.

A girl who suffers from seizures.
Epileptic seizures require whoever is nearby to stay calm to control the attack, turn the patient onto their side, and avoid injury.

Epileptic patients should reduce risks in everyday life

As you’ve seen, epilepsy is a pathology that requires patients to make modifications in their day-to-day life. Nevertheless, following the established guidelines and with proper treatment, an epileptic person can lead an almost normal life without serious mishaps.

To avoid seizures, you should sleep well, avoid drug and alcohol use, and avoid experiencing events that cause overly intense or stressful emotions. If you follow these tips, you’ll minimize the risk of a seizure.

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