While epilepsy can be unpredictable and disrupt your life, there are also steps you can take towards managing the disease and living a full life.
“Once you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy, the goal is to prevent seizures. That’s when being prepared, understanding the disease and gathering a support system becomes crucial,” says Lisa Knopf, MD, an epilepsy specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute Epilepsy Center.
How can you do that? Dr. Knopf shares these four tips with her patients to help with managing the disease and living a fuller life.
Stay consistent with medication
The most important way to manage epilepsy, Dr. Knopf says, is taking the anti-seizure medication you are given.
“Take your medicine as prescribed and on schedule,” she says. “If you are having side effects, tell your healthcare provider – there are many things we can do to help.”
This is true even if you don’t have seizures for a while, adds Tori Howard, Epilepsy Center nurse educator.
“Some people think they can stop their meds if they haven’t had a seizure in a while, and that’s not true,” she notes.
Create a support system
Many patients don’t remember their seizures, so it’s important that family and close friends know what to do and how to help, says Howard.
To prepare them for those situations, she suggests bringing loved ones to your doctor’s appointments.
“They need to hear the doctor’s instructions to keep you safe,” she says.
Learn your triggers
Every person’s experience with epilepsy is different, so it’s important to know – and avoid – what triggers your seizures, Dr. Knopf says.
Some common triggers include missed medications, lack of sleep and stress. And contrary to myth, very few people with epilepsy are affected by flashing lights.
Lifestyle changes that make a difference
In addition, Dr. Knopf says these lifestyle tips can you help manage the disease:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common trigger for seizures, so be sure to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted slumber a night.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. If you take anti-seizure medication, drugs and alcohol can lower its effectiveness and impact your quality of sleep.
- Take care of other health issues. More than 25% of people with epilepsy have behavioral health issues like anxiety, depression, and memory loss. Addressing these through programs to strengthen memory or visits with other healthcare professionals can help, Dr. Knopf says.
- Bring enough supplies when traveling. This includes regular medication and any “rescue meds” you might be prescribed for use during a seizure.