Epilepsy Awareness Month

November marks Epilepsy Awareness Month and as someone with the condition, I feel that it is increasingly important that more people are made aware of Epilepsy and its effects.

What is Epilepsy           

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and people who have it have a tendency to have epileptic seizures. Although many people have had a seizure at some point, people are diagnosed after having a history of having seizures. Epileptic seizures are a consequence of sudden bursts of electrical activity which temporarily affects the brain’s activity, leading to a number of different types of seizures. Although sometimes Epilepsy can be temporary, the majority of cases, such as myself, have it for life.

Epilepsy is more common than many believe, with around 1/100 in the UK having the condition. Epilepsy can be caused by a number of things, with the main causes being not having enough oxygen during birth, a stroke, a brain tumour, and a serious brain injury.  Nowadays, around 70% of people who live with epilepsy have their seizures controlled or at a much lower rate than previously due to important advances in treatment.

Seizure triggers

Not taking medication as prescribed can be a trigger for an epileptic seizure as a decreased amount of the medicine in the blood seriously affects its effectiveness. Stress is also a trigger for epileptic seizures, but the reason for this is largely unknown. Many people with epilepsy have reported that while being stressed, there is an increased likeliness of having a seizure. Alcohol and recreational drugs are also a trigger, due to them decreasing the effectiveness of some epilepsy medicine. These cover the main triggers for most who have the conditions, but there are several other reported by those with epilepsy.

What is it like to live with epilepsy?

  • Heightened Anxiety

Many people who live with Epilepsy experience anxiety regularly. This is due to the fact that they could experience a seizure at any time and anywhere. The anxiety is heavily linked with the potential embarrassment some with the condition feel if witnesses see their seizures.

  • Driving

If someone has frequent seizures, they are likely not able to get a driving license or may have their license removed for a certain amount of time. This can have a serious impact on someone’s wellbeing due to the loss of their independence and having to rely on others to get around. The inability to drive also seriously limits their employment opportunities.

  • Employment

There are protections to those with epilepsy in employment, with the introduction of the Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Equality Act 2010 which meant that employers must make adjustments to ensure those with medical conditions are safe at work and can’t be fired due to their epilepsy. However, for those who have multiple seizures a day, it may not be possible to work.

How has COVID-19 affected those with Epilepsy?

One main way that COVID-19 has affected those with epilepsy is that the increased stress and anxiety that the pandemic has caused, such as fear of catching the virus and losing your job, as discussed above, may negatively affect those with epilepsy and could lead to the increase in the number of seizures that they have.

Moreover, another way that COVID-19 will affect those living with epilepsy is that if they catch COVID-19, one of the symptoms is an increased temperature. This is a common trigger for epilepsy and people who live with epilepsy, such as me, who experience epileptic activity in the days before becoming unwell.

Support available to those with Epilepsy 

National charities

Support in Worcestershire

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