Teens & Epilepsy
Being a teenager is an adventure. From driving to dating, sports to activities, homework to that first job, teenagers face big challenges.
Teens who have epilepsy (also known as seizure disorders) face other big challenges, too. Like explaining seizures to other people. Wondering how their friends are going to react. Never knowing when the next seizure is going to happen.
Since epilepsy is so common, there ‘s a very good chance that you could witness someone having a seizure. Will you know what a seizure is when you see one? Do you know what you would do? Would you panic? Laugh? Flip out? Or walk away like you didn‘t see anything? A big challenge is the fact that other teens may not know much about epilepsy. Seizures can look strange sometimes — and that can be a problem, too. Nobody wants to be different, but sometimes there are differences that affect people’s lives — and people just have to deal with it.
This information is designed to let you know how to respond if someone is having a seizure. It will tell you a lot about epilepsy you probably didn‘t already know. Read what teens with epilepsy have to say.
Once you have the facts, you can be the one who knows what to do. Staying in control is the best way to help someone who is having a seizure. Take some time to check out the site. And take charge!
Fast Facts About Epilepsy & Teens
- One in 100 teenagers has epilepsy (a seizure disorder).
- It’s a condition in the brain that sometimes makes people have seizures.
- Anyone, at any age, can develop epilepsy.
- Epilepsy is NOT contagious.
- Often, there’s no known cause.
- Teens with epilepsy take medication to prevent seizures.
- Some teens have a lot of seizures. Some have very few or none at all.
- Teens with epilepsy play sports, hang out and go to regular schools.
- Teens with epilepsy want to be treated just like everyone else!
Symptoms of Seizures
- Brief staring
- Sudden muscle contractions
- Sudden falls
SIMPLE PARTIAL SEIZURES
- Deja vu (unfamiliar things seems familiar)
- Jamais vu (familiar things suddenly seem unfamiliar)
- Trembling that moves up one side of the body
- Out of body “experiences”
- Sudden shifts in mood
- Unexplained anger or fear
- Disturbed speech
COMPLEX PARTIAL SEIZURES
- Lip smacking
- Picking at clothes
- Lack of response to others
- Repeated phrases
- Senseless, clumsy movements
- Lost time
- Being briefly unaware of danger or pain.
FAQs for Teens & Epilepsy
Let’t Talk About Alcohol & Drugs
Using either is a real risk. Drugs are against the law and – if you are a minor – so is alcohol. You could get caught, and no one needs that kind of trouble!
Mixing illegal street drugs with prescribed epilepsy medications is even riskier. Some illegal drugs – like cocaine – can cause seizures in people who don’t even have epilepsy!
Other illegal substances like pot, may contain all kinds of additives that could be harmful. As for alcohol, it’s unlikely to cause a seizure immediately, but it may be the following day, and just one seizure can set you back on qualifying for a drivers license.
Can I still get a job or go to college?
You can do both! If your high school grades are good enough to get you into college, there’s no reason to think that having epilepsy would be a barrier.
Sometimes, the meds might affect how quickly you can complete tests and similar projects. In most cases, you should be able to work with the college administration to take a lighter credit load and even have extra time to complete your work.
The key to getting a job is to have marketable skills and some work experience. Try building a resume with part-time jobs while you’re still in high school and at college, or do some volunteering or community service. Sometimes volunteer jobs can lead to permanent ones.
Are your parents concerned about you playing sports?
Have you tried raising this question with your doctor? They could be a good ally — depending on the sport and how your seizures affect you. Most teens with epilepsy should be able to run track and play basketball or tennis or other sports with no problems.
Swimming alone is not a good idea, at any time for anyone. Swimming with others who know you have epilepsy and are good enough swimmers to help you if you should have a seizure is a better plan. Protective helmets can help reduce the risk of head injury from cycling, baseball and football.
Helping parents let go is never easy, and it’s especially tough when a teenager has a medical problem. Perhaps you can convince them to let you try and see how things go.
Are you down and sad, worried about having seizures?
Depression and anxiety are not things to ignore. Sometimes these feelings can be the result of your medication. Tell your folks how you feel and discuss it with your doctor. A change in medicine might help. Depression and anxiety can be treated successfully!
Can seizures increase when I’m stressed or tired?
Yes, being under stress or not getting enough sleep can trigger seizures in some people. All-nighters are not a good idea when you have epilepsy. That doesn’t mean you have to nap all the time, just get an average amount of sleep to feel rested.
Should I avoid video games with flashing lights?
Some people are what’s called “photosensitive,” which means they may have seizures if a light flashing at a certain rate is shined in their eyes or they look at flashing images of light and dark.
If you’ve had an EEG test, they probably did a photosensitivity test as well, using a light, to see if your EEG would respond. If you didn’t have a seizure, or there were no telltale signs on your EEG, then flashing lights or flashing video game images may not be a problem for you.
Why did epilepsy happen to me?
That ‘s hard to say why someone has epilepsy. Often, the doctors can ‘t come up with a reason.
Some things that can lead to epilepsy are:
- problems in development before birth
- severe infections that involve the brain
- a severe head injury
- certain genetic factors
…but that doesn‘t mean that your epilepsy was necessarily caused by any of these things.
Will I always have it?
That depends. Some people find that seizures go into remission after a few years. Others will continue to have seizures unless they take specific medication (AEDs or Anti-Epilepsy Medication) to prevent them.
Is there a cure for epilepsy?
Despite the research, there has not been a cure found, yet. AED’s (Anti-Epilepsy Medications) don ‘t cure epilepsy the way an antibiotic can cure an infection, and they only work when they ‘re taken regularly. That doesn‘t mean you ‘ll have to take them for the rest of your life. After a while, you and your doctor may decide that slowly discontinuing your meds is worth a try. But that ‘s something only your doctor can advise you about.
I take epilepsy meds and others, too. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what I’ve taken…
In that case, it’s time for you to get organized! That’s your best bet to keep track of medication. You could get a watch or a pillbox, or even set your alarm in your cell phone for each time you have to take a pill.
Is there any other way to treat epilepsy?
There are indications that may result in surgery:
- A small area of the brain may work for some people.
- Brain stimulation via a large nerve in your neck (vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, therapy) may help.
- There’s also a diet (lots of fat, hardly any carbs–forget the pizza and the bread–and no sugar!) that helps younger children with seizures. But it’s NOT a “do-it-yourself” diet. It’s called the Ketogenic Diet. It’s a serious commitment and you have to be really disciplined to make it work.
NOTE: NEVER STOP TAKING YOUR MEDS ON YOUR OWN. YOU WILL RISK HAVING A BAD SEIZURE.