Wellness and Lifestyle
Staying healthy is important for people with epilepsy. Diet, physical fitness and sleep are all critical components in a healthy lifestyle.
If you find that getting overheated or physically tired triggers seizures, then you may want to avoid exercising when it's very hot. Take breaks when you feel you need them. Find out more on our physical fitness and exercise page, including details about precautions for specific physical activities.
In most cases, epilepsy isn't the kind of condition that can be treated with large doses of vitamins or mineral supplements. In fact, large quantities of either could be bad for your health. Check with your doctor before taking more vitamins than are in typical one-a-day multivitamins.
Most people who have epilepsy need about the same amount of sleep as everybody else. However, all-night study sessions, a series of late nights, or an overall lack of sleep can greatly raise the risk of seizures. If you feel tired and sleepy all the time, chances are your medicine needs adjustment in some way, or you may be depressed. Perhaps your dose is too high, or you are taking it at the wrong time of day. Don't make changes yourself, though. Tell your doctor about it.
Children and Teens
Epilepsy currently affects more than 300,000 children under the age of 14.
Puberty is the time when a child's body changes and becomes an adult. Some of these physical changes happen quickly and the dose of seizure medicine that worked before is not enough for the new body size.
Epilepsy in childhood may be time limited or long term. Early recognition and treatment are keys to the best possible outcome.
Epilepsy may be associated with serious, difficult-to-treat syndromes, including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, genetically related conditions, and developmental disorders.
One of the biggest challenges for parents when a child has seizures is to help the child maintain self-esteem. Find out more about issues for parents of children with epilepsy -- from talking to family to dealing with risk -- in our Parents section.
Women and Epilepsy
In many ways, epilepsy is a different condition in a woman than in a man. The differences arise because of biological differences between women and men, but also because of the different social roles they play. As a result of these biological and social differences, women with epilepsy face special challenges, especially in the area of reproductive health.
Treating epilepsy, especially in women, involves many different people. The team may include your doctor, nurse, psychologist or social worker, and specialists such as a neurologist or an obstetrician/gynecologist.
Although it is not well understood yet, we know that the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, act on certain brain cells, including those in the temporal lobe, a part of the brain where partial seizures often begin.
There are complex interactions between the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) contained in birth control pills or devices, and some of the medications used to control seizures.
We do not yet fully understand all the complex causes for sexual problems, especially how they may relate to epilepsy. For example, some people have a low level of sexual desire; others have difficulty becoming sexually aroused; or intercourse can be painful for some women. It is not unusual for people to have problems with sexual performance at times, and people with epilepsy are no exception.
Seniors and Epilepsy
If you are a senior citizen, you can probably remember a time when there were no reliable treatments for epilepsy. People did not understand why seizures happened and they were afraid of them.
You may remember, as a child, that families often sent people with seizures off to institutions, or kept them at home, isolated from others. And you may have heard it whispered (incorrectly) that epilepsy is a form of mental illness.
Perhaps you grew up in a state where people with epilepsy were not allowed to marry. Or you remember someone at school who had a seizure -- and wasn't allowed to return.
Not surprisingly, people with those kinds of memories may need reassurance that things have changed -- and we hope this website has provided that.
Epilepsy is now a well-understood neurological disorder, no more mysterious than other physical illnesses.
Today we know that epilepsy is not contagious, not a mental illness, not a symptom of intellectual decline, and certainly not a reason for shame or family embarrassment.
As we have seen, the good news today is that epilepsy can often be treated quite successfully.
Even if seizures continue to happen sometimes, that need not by itself prevent an otherwise healthy, active senior citizen from living an independent and satisfying life.