We came across this article on livestrong.com and we wanted to share this with the community. What is your experience with exercise? Do you have a routine that helps you stay in-shape and seizure free?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. Symptoms, which can be as mild as a brief loss of awareness, or as severe as a full-blown seizure with loss of consciousness, can usually be controlled with medication. Having epilepsy need not stop you from exercising. In fact, Better Health Channel reports that physical activity reduces the risk of seizures. Consult with your doctor to develop a safe and appropriate exercise plan.
Seizures, which are triggered by abnormal electrical signals inside the brain, are classified as either partial or generalized. With a simple partial seizure, you don’t lose consciousness, but you may experience unusual sensations, such as seeing flashing lights; there may also be involuntary, jerky motions of legs or arms. According to MayoClinic.com, generalized seizures involve the whole brain. The most severe form is the grand mal seizure, which causes complete unconsciousness, stiffening and shaking, and loss of bladder control. Half the time, the cause for epilepsy is unknown. The other half can be attributed to genetics, head injury, dementia, medical conditions or developmental disorders. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 3 million Americans suffer from some form of epilepsy.
Benefits of Exercise for Epilepsy
According to Better Health Channel, abnormalities in the brain decrease while people with epilepsy are in the act of exercising. The website adds that being fit and in good physical condition can reduce seizure frequency, as well as decreasing the number of health complaints, such as insomnia, depression, body aches and fatigue. Exercise can also improve self-esteem and help maintain a healthy weight.
There are some studies detailing the benefits and examining the risks of exercising with epilepsy. In a Norwegian study of 204 adult outpatients conducted by K.O. Nakken and published in Volume 40 of the 1999 issue of “Epilepsia,” the author found that only 2 percent of respondents had experienced genuine exercise-induced seizures — these patients tended to have underlying brain lesions — while 36 percent reported that exercising provided better seizure control. The author characterized the risk of serious seizure-related injuries during exercising as modest.
It is important not to overdo it when exercising with epilepsy. Better Health Channel cautions against allowing yourself to become overly fatigued and says you should stop exercising immediately if you feel faint, nauseous or dehydrated. Always inform your coach or teammates of your condition, and make sure they know what to do for you if you have a seizure. If you are hiking, jogging or biking solo, notify your friends or family of the route you plan to take, and wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a cell phone with an emergency number programmed in.
The fact that seizures can develop suddenly makes it necessary to use extreme caution around water. MayoClinic.com reports that a person with epilepsy is 15 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing than a person without the disorder. Always wear a life jacket, don’t swim alone, and make sure your companions not only know what to do in case of a seizure, but are strong enough to hold you up in the water. Swim only where there are lifeguards on duty, and advise them of your condition as well.
When To See a Doctor
According to MayoClinic.com, you should see a doctor if you experience a seizure and have never had one before. The website adds that you should seek emergency medical care if a seizure lasts more than five minutes, if breathing or consciousness isn’t restored at the end of the seizure, if there is a second seizure immediately afterwards, if you are pregnant or have diabetes, or if you have been injured during the seizure.