Life with epilepsy can present a variety of challenges, but people diagnosed with epilepsy can experience productive and fulfilling lives by managing their condition in proactive ways. To enjoy your best life with epilepsy, it’s important to take steps to take care of your body, manage stress, make adjustments, and communicate effectively about your condition.
Epilepsy is a spectrum of disorders in which abnormal brain waves disturb the brain’s electrical activity, leading to seizures. Medical treatment options, such as anti-epileptic drugs, can help you manage epilepsy and its symptoms. It is important to maintain your treatment plan as you adjust to life with the condition. That said, you can also consider employing the following strategies to optimize your quality of life while living with epilepsy.
Lifestyle factors, such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical activity, managing stress, and not smoking, can play into how you feel while living with epilepsy.
In general, eating a healthy diet will make your body strong and help give it the energy it needs to cope with epilepsy on a daily basis. Some types of epilepsy may actually be managed by making certain dietary changes. The ketogenic diet (in which you eat very few carbohydrates and more fats) is one option. Other people find success with a modified Atkins diet, a medium-chain triglyceride diet, or a low-glycemic diet.
Your neurologist may refer you to a specialist, such as a registered dietitian, who can help you devise the right diet plan for your unique needs.
Exercise can reduce your risk of developing other health conditions, lower your risk of anxiety or depression, and even help you sleep better. Physical activity may also help keep seizures under control. As long as you avoid any known seizure triggers — for example, exercising after very little sleep or on an empty stomach — physical activity could contribute to your plan for seizure control.
Exercise may be difficult, depending on the severity of your epilepsy or the types of seizures you have. Seek your doctor’s medical advice before you begin any new exercise routine or program.
When you’re cleared for exercise, ensure that your teammates, coaches, or exercise buddies know about your epilepsy in case they need to provide first aid or seek medical assistance. You can also tell these people what they can do to help you if you experience an episode.
Some people who have epilepsy find that stress is a significant trigger for seizures. However, it’s unclear whether stress causes seizure activity or leads to other symptoms (such as lack of sleep or dehydration) that then result in seizures. Either way, controlling your stress will likely make it easier to manage your seizure disorder.
If you need help coping with stress or other mental health symptoms, talk with your doctor about ways to manage stress. The doctor may suggest options such as:
Smoking may be a trigger for epilepsy. The exact nature of this relationship requires more study, but many neurologists and epilepsy specialists suggest that people diagnosed with epilepsy should stop smoking. If nothing else, quitting smoking may help you avoid other smoking-related health conditions that may complicate your epilepsy diagnosis. Your doctor or health care provider can help you find smoking-cessation resources to help you make this major change in your lifestyle.
People with epilepsy may struggle with how to discuss their condition with friends, family members, and co-workers. It can help to have some talking points on hand if you are unsure how to approach this conversation.
It can be hard to know how to talk about epilepsy with the people you love the most. They may not understand what you’re going through. Here are some tips to help guide this discussion:
You have a right to medical privacy at work, and how discreet you are about your epilepsy is your choice. Here are some suggestions for talking about your condition with co-workers:
Family dynamics can change when someone has epilepsy. Depending on the kind of seizures a person experiences, household tasks can become difficult, and some responsibilities may have to shift. Family members may need to provide medical care and offer more emotional support than they did in the past. Open and clear communication is important so expectations are clear to both the person with epilepsy and family members providing extra support.
Being a parent diagnosed with epilepsy can bring particular difficulties. In general, make sure you do the following:
If you can work but need accommodations, talk with your human resources department. Most likely, the adjustments required will be based on the severity of your epilepsy. Have your doctor document the way epilepsy affects you, then explain it to HR so you can get any necessary help at work.
If you cannot work and have not been able to work for 12 months because of epilepsy, you may be eligible for disability benefits. You will need to apply and submit documentation of your condition to receive the benefits.
The costs of many epilepsy treatments can be high. Your therapy will be much more affordable if you have some form of public or private health insurance, including the following:
If you do not have health insurance, or if you have insurance but need further support, you may find resources within your state to help cover medication costs. Some of the programs available include:
You may want to talk with a Medicare adviser or social worker to find out if you are eligible for programs that can help offset the costs of epilepsy treatment.
Depending on how epilepsy affects you, you may need to modify travel plans or methods so that you can take trips without triggering seizures. Talk to your health care team if you are planning to travel so that your trip won’t interrupt your treatment plan. Carefully assess what seizure medications or supplies you will need for traveling, and organize essentials well before your departure date.
Living with epilepsy may be made easier if you connect with others who understand what you’re going through. MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network designed for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. More than 106,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with epilepsy.
Do you have any strategies for managing life with epilepsy? Do you take certain steps to avoid triggers? Share your thoughts or tips in the comments below or by posting on MyEpilepsyTeam.