Medications are only part of managing epilepsy. Self management involves taking control of the way you think and feel about epilepsy, and how you cope in everyday life. It is about playing an active rather than a passive role in the management of your epilepsy to live life to the fullest.
These practical tips may prevent seizures and help you to take control of your life.
Try to find out as much as you can about your condition so you can understand and learn how to manage it.
- Knowledge can reduce anxiety and concerns by helping you feel more in control.
- You will be able to take a more active role asking questions and discussing treatment options with your doctor.
- A greater understanding of your condition can help you to identify your own seizure triggers.
- The correct information can dispel myths and make you feel more comfortable talking about epilepsy to others.
- By educating yourself, you can educate others.
Take medications as prescribed
Medications don't cure epilepsy, but they can control seizures.
Taking doses as prescribed by the doctor is essential to gaining seizure control. If you have difficulty remembering to take medication:
- Make it part of a daily routine such as taking them at meal times.
- Set a watch or small alarm clock as a reminder.
- Use a pillbox or place the medications in a visible position as a reminder.
- Use a chart or calendar and tick when the dose is taken.
- Ask someone close to remind you.
Check before taking other medications or supplements
Other medications may interact with antiepileptic medications or make you more prone to having seizures.
It is recommended people consult the doctor before commencing herbal medicines, homoeopathic substances and supplements such as Gingko Biloba, St Johns Wort and Evening Primrose Oil. These are believed to affect seizure control because they interfere with the metabolism of antiepileptic medications.
Be aware that vomiting and diarrhoea can also cause seizures because antiepileptic medications may not be absorbed properly and fluid and electrolyte imbalances can occur due to dehydration.
Brands and generic medications
There can be a slight variation between brand medications for epilepsy and the cheaper, generic medications your pharmacist may offer you. Studies have shown that even small differences between medications can cause more seizures or different side effects.
It appears that the change in medication is what causes problems, whether it is from brand to generic, generic to a brand, or even generic to generic. So it is wise to stick with whatever medication you originally commenced with, either brand or generic.
Avoid large amounts of caffeine or energy drinks
There have been a number of reported cases where excess caffeine has contributed to the increase in frequency of seizures or uncontrolled seizures.
Caffeine is a stimulant and is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many soft drinks and medications, including some diet pills, antihistamines and decongestants.
Guarana is a natural caffeine source and a stimulant. It is one of the ingredients often used in energy drinks and herbal weight-loss teas, and may be combined with other substances to produce an even stronger stimulant effect. The combination has been known to cause irregular heartbeats, increased urination, insomnia, higher blood pressure, irritability and seizures. Frequent use may actually cause dependency.
Grapefruit and Seville oranges
There are substances in grapefruit that can interfere with the way the body absorbs and breaks down (metabolises) certain medications, increasing or decreasing its levels in the bloodstream. One of these medications is Tegretol (Carbamazepine). Avoid grapefruit or Seville oranges if you are on this medication.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep is a common trigger for seizures.
The amount of sleep a person needs will differ between individuals, but it is recommended that people with epilepsy stick to a regular bedtime and try to get a full night's sleep (seven to eight hours) as often as possible.
People with epilepsy do not need an excessive amount of sleep. Constant tiredness and sleepiness may be a sign that medications may need adjusting.
Recognise and respond to stress
Stress can't always be avoided, but you can minimise its impact by changing the way you respond. It is important to identify the cause of stress and find practical solutions.
Some known stress busters are:
- Muscle relaxation exercises
- Breathing techniques
- Effective time management
- Good support networks
If stress is having a significant impact, discuss concerns with a professional such as a psychologist or counsellor.
Be aware of seizure triggers
Identifying seizure triggers and learning how to avoid them is important for seizure control.
Avoiding seizure triggers can be very difficult at times. Weigh up the risks and look at quality of life issues.
LIVE LIFE THE BEST YOU CAN!
Common seizure triggers include missed medications, sleep deprivation and stress. But seizure triggers can also include:
- Low blood sugar
- Extreme heat or cold
- Startle such as a loud noise
- Depression, boredom
- Flashing lights
- Hormonal changes in females
Keeping a seizure diary may be helpful in identifying triggers.
Most people with epilepsy agree that taking their medication regularly and simply being careful with their lifestyle minimises the chances of having a seizure.
Epilepsy Action supports children and adults with epilepsy and seizure disorders across Australia. For more information about our services call 1300 EPILEPSY (37 45 37) or visit www.epilepsy.org.au