What can I do to manage my epilepsy?

There are many things you can do to manage your seizure disorder, also known as epilepsy, on a daily basis. Working with your doctor to find a treatment that addresses your symptoms is the most important thing you can do, since about 80 percent of people with epilepsy will be able to control their seizures to some degree with currently available treatments. If you have seizures frequently, you might have to stop driving until you have gone for a specific, state-mandated period of time without a seizure. You might also need to avoid certain activities that put you at risk for injury in the event of a seizure, such as operating heavy machinery or participating in certain sports, such as swimming. Some people with epilepsy may benefit from making changes to their diet, such as reducing carbohydrates and avoiding alcohol. Getting enough sleep may help control your epilepsy symptoms, since sleep deprivation can trigger seizures. Many people find that joining an epilepsy support group helps them deal with the emotional and practical issues that are involved with coping with the disorder.

Jerome Engel, MD

It is most important that you understand the type of epileptic seizures that you have, the epilepsy syndrome and cause, if known, and why your doctor has prescribed your treatment. If you are taking antiseizure (antiepileptic) drugs, you must take them regularly to maintain seizure control. If you miss a dose, or even take it at the wrong time, the level of the drug in your blood may fall below that necessary to protect against seizures. Maintaining a healthy stress-free lifestyle, getting sufficient sleep, eating well and regularly, and avoiding bad habits such as binge drinking, use of stimulant drugs or dependency on sedative drugs will reduce seizure risk, but it’s not necessary to become a zombie. If you are seizure free and driving, and have been exposed to situations that might exacerbate seizures, it is best not to get behind the wheel for a day or two. Use good judgment about putting yourself in situations where you could hurt yourself or others if you should have a seizure. The most common cause of accidental death from seizures is drowning, so you should not swim alone and you should shower rather than take baths. Advocate for yourself, use the internet to keep informed and contact the Epilepsy Foundation <> to avail yourself of many resources for people with epilepsy. If you continue to have disabling seizures after trials of two antiseizure drugs, you have refractory epilepsy and should seek help at a specialized epilepsy center where advanced diagnostic techniques and alternative treatments are available.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.