Men & Epilepsy
Comparatively little has been written specifically for men with epilepsy. But this is not because epilepsy affects men any less than it does women. The numbers are generally seen as being pretty much equal between genders even though some writers have reported that slightly more men have epilepsy than women.
For men, a wide range of specific issues has not been articulated. They exist, however, and they can be quite complex, varying with such things as age, seizure type and severity and with a male’s overall health and lifestyle circumstances.
If You Are A Male With Epilepsy
It is important to understand that your seizures are not a sign of weakness or of mental instability or of being any less intelligent or capable than anyone else. Seizures are in fact a sign that your seizure threshold has been lowered in some way. They are a clear indication that despite the fact that your brain functions perfectly well on almost every possible occasion, a small and relatively uncommon biochemical glitch can bring things temporarily undone. It is very often a very small glitch. It’s usually momentary and isolated. But, as you know, its impact can be devastating.
Epilepsy is often called an “episodic” illness because seizures come and go and in fact might only occur on very rare occasions.
Men And Compliance
Taking the tablets you have been prescribed in the way your doctor has advised is known as “compliance” and it is reported as a greater issue for men than it is for women. Some writers think it is patronizing to talk about “compliance” as they equate it to “doing what you are told to do”. Treating epilepsy is not like taking a course of antibiotics to treat an infection. It is not something that popping a few pills will fix. It requires you to take tablets and keep taking them until your doctor or neurologist gives you the all clear to reduce or stop.
FAQs for Men with Epilepsy
What Happens If You Stop Or Reduce Your Tablets?
If you stop taking the tablets prescribed or even decrease the dosage, you are likely to experience what are sometimes called “breakthrough seizures” and indeed it may be harder to get your seizures back under control the second time than it was the first time. You may well be able to reduce or even cease taking drugs once you have been seizure free for a couple of years.
Tablets are sometimes resented and rejected because they are associated with the “stigma” of epilepsy. This can be a critical problem for adolescents who don’t want to have to explain why they take tablets. Or they may resent tablets as another example of the adult authority that they tend to question regardless of whether or not they have epilepsy.
If, as an adult, you have been seizure free for two or more years there is a possibility that you may be able to undergo a supervised reduction in the number of tablets you take, and even to stop altogether. It’s not a guarantee that seizures will not return.
Alcohol And Other Recreational Drugs
Most men like a drink. And epilepsy shouldn’t stop you having a beer or two or a glass of wine with dinner, but you need to be honest with yourself about it. Alcohol can increase the sedating effects of some antiepileptic medications and it can trigger seizures under some circumstances. Some antiepileptic medications specifically recommend that you not drink while taking them and some neurologists expect their patients to follow this restriction to the letter – especially until they get their seizures under control. If it is a problem for you, speak about it with your doctor. You may be able to try another tablet or you may even be able to have the occasional drink and do so with little or no adverse reactions.
Street drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, heroin, amphetamines or solvents can trigger seizures and when combined with a change in lifestyle that involves late nights and alcohol your risk of seizures is greatly increased. Talk to your doctor or epilepsy counselor. You should not be playing Russian roulette with seizures. The first three to six months of your treatment are critical for you.
Is Marijuana As Good For Seizures As Many People Claim?
Marijuana smokers with particular kinds of seizures will tell you that they can control seizures by smoking dope. The fact is that they may be right. But there are other facts that are equally relevant to what is happening here.
Antiepileptic medication must be taken with clocklike regularity every day to control seizures. As marijuana is generally illegal and its supply erratic, relying on marijuana to control your seizures is fraught with danger. If you stop because your supply has dried up, you can be placing yourself at great risk and your seizures may come back with a vengeance. Another difficulty with marijuana is measuring the strength of the dope you are smoking.
In fact, if you do use recreational drugs, you will need to talk about it with your doctor or epilepsy counselor and they will almost certainly tell you that they can trigger the very seizures that you are seeking to avoid.
Can Having Sex Provoke Seizures?
Many men wonder if sexual activity can provoke seizures. The answer is that it is unlikely to do so. In fact, an active sex life can have a decided stress reducing effect just as the lack of one can cause some guys to become quite stressed out. And don’t forget, if you are in a sexual relationship, your partner may want to reassure you of their love and support and may be frustrated by your lack of interest. So it’s important to talk.
While some seizures [central or parietal lobe seizures] can involve sexual feelings and actually cause erections and ejaculation, the experience of epilepsy is more likely to lead to a decline in sexual energy or libido rather than an increase. The culprit most often blamed is the sedating effect of many antiepileptic drugs.
There is, in fact, a range of solutions to impotence and newer drugs such as Viagra appear to be compatible with antiepileptic medications. If such drugs help it is likely that they are redressing difficulties that are not based on epilepsy but are the same difficulties that millions of other men without epilepsy experience.
All kinds of things can go wrong for all of us, and having epilepsy should not be seen as the culprit in every case. The important thing is to talk about anything that worries you with your doctor or counselor so that you can move forward.
Will I be a Good Provider
For many men the idea of supporting a family is what keeps them going to work; often at jobs for which they don’t particularly care. It’s the idea of being the traditional breadwinner and it’s tied up with notions of male physical strength and the ability to protect those you love. Well, the truth is, seizures can threaten this. They can lose you your job. They can cause you to have a serious work injury. They can leave you without an income, at home with the possibility of seizures while your partner is out earning money.
Will My Children Have Epilepsy?
Yes, your children are at a slightly higher risk than the general population for developing epilepsy. Studies show that children of men with epilepsy have a 2.4% risk of developing epilepsy, as opposed to children in the general population, whose risk is estimated at 1%. If both parents have epilepsy, the risk that their children will develop epilepsy increases, although estimates vary widely. Some statistics say the risk of developing epilepsy when both parents have it is about 5%, while others place it closer to 15 or 20%.
What Should I Know As A New Father?
If well controlled, you face very few “restrictions” on caring for your children. If your epilepsy causes you impaired awareness or control of your movement you need to take care and be cautious when caring for a baby or a young child.
If you have a new baby around you may lose come sleep or not be sleeping well. Not getting enough sleep is a very well know seizure trigger. In addition, stress that is induced by loss of sleep and a new baby around the house can aggravate seizures. Take care of yourself as well. Get enough sleep and learn relaxation techniques.
Additional Concerns Men Have with Epilepsy
Compliance can become a particular problem for men whose self-image rests at the more rugged higher risk-taking, strongman end of the masculinity scale. It can be a problem for both men and women in the workforce where they have not told their colleagues or employers, or where there is a habit of spending time in the pub with mates or colleagues after work. There is some evidence that men, particularly younger men, can find this especially hard going. For some males, their self-image can take a battering when they are not being permitted to drive for a certain period until seizures are controlled.
Surveys have revealed that some males would rather tell their workmates and friends that they’re “off the road” for drinking and driving than admit to having seizures. Being a male brings with it a range of expectations that can make epilepsy an especially hard condition if you allow yourself to be ruled by stereotypes.
Most professional drivers are men, whether they drive trains, taxis, trams, buses or road transports. The farmer on the tractor is more likely to be a man. And indeed one of the rites of passage for many young men is getting a license and to get some wheels. Driving and unpredictable seizures can be a lethal combination.
For older men, it is often the case that they are the only person left in the household who drives, once the children have grown up and moved out. Having epilepsy can mean that both partners have no immediate access to the car that has until now taken them shopping, visiting the kids, and even on holidays.
Those men who play sport, however in truth most men watch rather than play, tend to play more physically aggressive sports than women. There are major sports stars who have epilepsy who compete in some of the toughest sports played, but these guys have their seizures controlled. Without freedom from seizures, it is inadvisable to play rough contact sports. Interestingly, head protection gear is increasingly seen as an important element to playing contact sports safely.
Likewise, participation in sports like weightlifting or bodybuilding, skydiving, mountain climbing or diving should only occur under well-supervised circumstances.
Motor mowers and power tools have made many men’s lives a whole lot easier. They have also sliced through feet and fingers. Hammers and chisels, saws and bladed tools, ladders and being the one who climbs onto the roof are all things most men deal with.
The advice here is if you could hurt yourself by having a seizure while doing anything with tools then you just have to adapt the activity or pass on it until you know that your seizures aren’t going to happen. Fixing a leak in the roof may be sensible and you may be the only one in the house without a fear of heights, but it’s a heck of a lot harder fixing a broken leg or neck.
It’s true that everyone can get angry at a diagnosis like epilepsy. In fact, it’s pretty normal to feel some anger – as well as some anxiety, even depression. It is important to talk about these feelings because they are manageable. The trouble is many men are not so great at dealing with emotions like these. But you can and once you do, you’ll learn that there’s plenty that you can do to improve things.
The one thing you can’t do is try to excuse anger by telling people that they just have to put up with it because you have epilepsy. Anger is a useful emotion but not if you can’t keep a lid on it. Anger, if left unchecked, can do you a great deal of damage. Talk to your doctor or epilepsy counselor and get through it.
Epilepsy is a serious health condition and being a man doesn’t mean you have to tough it out!
What is Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome?
Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome (SBIS) is a form of child abuse that occurs when an infant or young child is violently shaken. The shaking may only last a few seconds but it can cause severe brain damage and even death.
Violently shaking a baby forces the head and brain to “whip” back and forth, causing the brain to swell and blood vessels in the brain and eyes to tear and bleed. These injuries can cause:
- Learning disabilities
- …and DEATH
The combination of injuries in SBIS is not found together in any other kind of child abuse, medical condition or accidental trauma. Shaking injuries require massive, violent force and are NOT caused by:
- Bouncing a baby on your knee
- Tossing a baby in the air
- Running, jogging or bicycling with a baby
- Falling off furniture
- Sudden stops in a car or driving over bumps
How can Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome be Prevented?
Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome can be prevented. Shaking usually occurs when a frustrated caregiver loses self-control with a crying baby. As we learned earlier, it is OK to let your baby cry, it is even an important part of the baby’s development, so if your baby is crying, and you’ve tried to soothe him, it’s ALWAYS the primary option to put the baby in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes to calm down.
Remind yourself, remind your partner, tell your friends, your family and anyone who cares for your child or any child that it’s OK to let your baby cry, but it’s NOT OK to shake your baby.
Make sure you pass this information on to everyone. Let them know that shaking is dangerous. Also, let your baby’s caregivers know of your baby’s crying habits, and if she begins a bout of crying that everything is still OK. Explain to them why shaking is dangerous. They’ll be more prepared and less likely to let frustration build if they know what to expect from your baby.
Baby’s brains are hard at work!
You wouldn’t know it from watching her, but your baby’s brain is working harder now than at any other time in her life. While most organs are fully developed at birth, your baby’s brain development is just beginning. The brain grows as she gains experience with new people and environments. The development in the brain made during the first three years will help determine how our baby will learn, think, and behave for the rest of her life.
This early brain activity makes it very easy to give your baby what she needs to develop a healthy, powerful brain. Expensive educational toys are fine, but what she really needs is time with you. Basic activities with your baby such as holding, talking and making eye contact are important to her early brain development. So, just spending time with your baby, helping her discover the world around her, is the best thing for her. The little things you do with your baby now, will not only boost her brain power but will also help build a special bond between the two of you!
How to boost your baby’s brain power!
Talking, reading and singing to your baby helps her learn to recognize your voice and is great for brain development. Babies love to look at faces, so make eye contact with your baby often. Using a soft loving voice helps her learn basic language skills.
It may sound easy, but just holding your baby is a great way for you to get to know each other and boost her brain power. Spending time with your baby close to you gives her a chance to learn to recognize your face, touch, skin and smell.
Can I spoil my baby?
Fathers may feel like they are spoiling their new baby if they respond to their crying every time. You cannot spoil a baby less than six months old. During the first six months, it is very important for your baby’s early development that you respond to his distress and try and comfort him. Even if nothing you do will calm him, it still gives him a secure feeling that you are there for him.
My baby cries constantly, am I a bad Father?
Constant crying will quickly become very frustrating. Fathers may think they are a bad parent if they cannot soothe their crying baby. You baby’s crying does not mean that you or your partner are doing something wrong. Both of you need to remember that crying is a perfectly healthy part of your baby’s development and that all babies go through a time when the crying increases.
Source: With permission from Epilepsy Australia, Ltd