Seizures & Epilepsy

Family Planning & Epilepsy

November 22, 2019
Epilepsy & Pregnancy

Family planning and sexuality is an important aspect of adult life that can be impacted by epilepsy or by the medicine used to treat epilepsy.

Certain medicines used to treat epilepsy can also affect hormone levels involved in sexual response and/or the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

The signs of sexual dysfunction differ between men and women.

  • Some men with epilepsy experience loss of sex drive, while about half experience erectile dysfunction
  • Most women with epilepsy have normal sexual desire, but some may have markedly decreased sexual drive

For sexually active adults, sexual dysfunction can include:

  • Diminished desire and willingness to have sex
  • Diminished sexual arousal

Feeling sad or depressed, vulnerable, scared, angry, helpless, or under pressure can also have a negative impact on sexuality. Express any sexual concerns you have to your doctor and any time you experience side effects from your medicines.

Family Planning + Epilepsy

To help ensure you have a healthy baby, plan carefully with the help of a neurologist to be sure you receive appropriate care before becoming pregnant. Your gynecologist/obstetrician and neurologist should both review your medicine regimen before you try to become pregnant.

Epilepsy & Pregnancy

Epilepsy does not prevent women from becoming pregnant. More than 95% of women with epilepsy who want to have children will have a full-term pregnancy and a healthy child.

Women with epilepsy may be concerned with:

  • The safety of their medicines during pregnancy
  • Potential complications during and after pregnancy for both mother & baby
  • Labor & delivery

Many women with epilepsy find support groups to be helpful. Browse on Facebook groups – there are a ton!

Your gynecologist/obstetrician and neurologist should both be involved in your care and review your medicines before you try to get pregnant.

Prior to becoming pregnant, counseling can help provide insight into the changes that occur during and after pregnancy. The below information will help you understand:

  • Whether your seizures can be effectively controlled with only one medication, to minimize exposure to the fetus.
  • Changes that happen during pregnancy that may affect seizure control
  • Whether certain medicines for seizure control are safe or appropriate for use during and after pregnancy
  • Risk associated with labor and delivery

Pregnancy & Seizures

Seizure control is especially important during pregnancy to help protect the heath of both mother and baby. Doctors have found that most women experience no change in their seizure activity during pregnancy. Also, nearly 95% of women with epilepsy experience seizure-free labor and delivery.

Women who are seizure-free for 9 months or more prior to becoming pregnant are likely to remain seizure-free during a pregnancy.

*Pregnant women with epilepsy who are taking anti-epileptic medicines can register with The North American Anti-epileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry (1-888-233-2334). This is to help researchers study the safety of anti-epileptic medicine use during pregnancy.

Epilepsy & Post-Partum Care

The post-partum period – lasting from birth to about 6 weeks after a baby can be challenging for all women. For new mothers with epilepsy, this can also be a time when:

  • Medicines taken for epilepsy return to pre – pregnancy doses
  • Contraception use should resume
  • There may be more interaction with healthcare providers to help manage care of the mother and newborn

Epilepsy Medicine & Contraception

Contraception can help assure women of childbearing age that their family planning concerns are addressed as part of their overall epilepsy management plan.

Certain medications used to treat epilepsy can interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Talk to your doctor about the use of contraceptives while taking epilepsy medication. For example – it may be necessary to increase the dose of an oral contraceptive while taking epilepsy medication.

Brain Health

Stress & Anxiety

November 20, 2019
Stress & Anxiety with Epilepsy

Seizures can something be predicted, but most of the times , they can’t. When you have epilepsy, you start to notice types of triggers that can cause your seizure. My seizure triggers are sleep deprivation , stress and diet. My mom always tells me “don’t stress”. But it is easier said than done. 🙁

Is Stress or Anxiety is a Seizure Trigger, What Should I Do?

Here are a number of things you could do to lessen the chance of a seizure. 

  • First, look at how stress is affecting you and how you are coping with it. Is there a way to lessen its impact on you? Are there ways to manage stress better? 
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Cardio
  • Are you having sleep problems? Difficulty sleeping is a common symptom of stress and mood problems. Since sleep deprivation is a common seizure trigger, it’s important to pay attention to sleep at these times. 
    • Ask your doctor about Melatonin. It may interact with the medications you are taking.
  • Are you eating normally? Eating habits often get disrupted when people are feeling stressed. Some people eat more, others don’t eat or have poor eating habits. Some people find they have more seizures when not eating well or going long periods without eating. Maybe you are drinking too much coffee or caffeinated beverages? This can worsen seizures by disrupting your sleep.
    • The Ketogenic diet works for many people either with seizures, people who want to lose weight or just feeling better mentally.
  • Is alcohol or using ‘recreational’ drugs a problem? Sometimes substance use or abuse is a problem when people have mood problems or are feeling stressed. Not a good idea if you have seizures.

Stress & The Holidays
Holidays are a busy time of the year. The stress and potential loss of sleep during this time can be a seizure trigger for some. If you are concerned about increased seizure activity around the holidays, consider:

  • Managing your time and activities during the day (shopping, cooking, parties)
  • Limited alcohol consumption
  • Increasing exercise time to help relieve stress

Every time you feel stress coming on, just take a deep breadth and asay a positive affirmation 🙂

Epilepsy Advocates

Managing Your Social Life

November 18, 2019

Social interactions are important contributing factors to your quality of life. Some people with epilepsy experience challenges with social interaction for reasons such as:

  • Certain cultural beliefs and stigmas that may make it challenging to find social support
  • Side effects from some medications may cause some people to feel uncomfortable in public settings

In a recent online general survey of adults in the US, more than half of those responding felt that people with epilepsy can do anything without it can do and are able to cope with everyday.

Most adults with epilepsy say that their condition has no impact on their social relationships.

In the same survey, when asked to consider social interactions with a person with epilepsy:

  • Almost half said they would date a person with epilepsy
  • More than 60% said they are comfortable being around or working with a person with epilepsy
  • More than 80% said they would not be embarrassed to have a family member with epilepsy

These answers are encouraging, but they also show that there is a need for better understanding of how epilepsy may affect you, your social life and your daily activities.

 Social Support Networks

  • Family is the most important social support network for both children and adults with epilepsy
  • The family’s positive attitude can help encourage positive perceptions of epilepsy
  • Community networks can help people with epilepsy and their family members find information about the condition and learn about coping strategies. These resources can help you interact with others who also experience epilepsy and are willing to share their story.

 You can find organizations that provide epilepsy information from:

  • Support groups
  • Social media (There are A LOT of Epilepsy Facebook groups – I’m joined many of them)
  • Online videos
  • Informal epilepsy-related social events
  • Conversations with your doctor

The Social Life of Children with Epilepsy

Children with epilepsy may have lower social skill levels. This can affect them in their adult years, too. Work with your child’s doctor to encourage participation in social activities.

Young children with epilepsy might be excluded from parties, play dates, and sleepovers due to parental fears and concerns. Information for the parents hosting these activities may help alleviate their concerns.

The Social Life of Adolescents with Epilepsy

Epilepsy can affect an adolescent’s ability to meet social goals such as:

  • Obtaining a driver’s license
  • Forming relationships with peers and siblings
  • Participating in recreation and leisure activities
  •  Keeping up with schoolwork
  • Seeking employment and maintaining job

Managing your social life is do-able for people living with epilepsy. You face challenges but there are techniques you can learn to really increase your quality of life 🙂

Seizures & Epilepsy

Epilepsy 101

October 17, 2019

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time.

A seizure is a release of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can cause a change in attention, behavior, or the ability to remain awake and alert. Seizures often involve uncontrollable shaking (convulsions).

Most people with epilepsy lead normal lives. However, people with epilepsy are at an increased risk of falls, accidents, and injuries. Therefore, it is important to begin treatment right away.

Causes of Epilepsy

Epilepsy has many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of brain cell activity can lead to seizures. This may include:

  • Head injury
  • Birth trauma
  • Bleeding into or around the brain
  • Stroke
  • Certain drugs
  • Prolonged low oxygen
  • Abnormal brain development
  • Certain illnesses, such as meningitis, encephalitis (brain infection), malaria, and other infections
  • An imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals (neurotransmitters)

Epilepsy Symptoms

The symptoms of a seizure can vary greatly from one person to another. Right before a seizure, you may have a warning (aura) that a seizure is about to occur. An aura may include the following symptoms:

  • Fear or anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Feeling like the room is spinning (vertigo)
  • Vision changes, such as seeing flashing lights or spots

Common epilepsy symptoms during a seizure include:

  • Abnormal sensations, such as an abnormal smell or a bitter taste in the mouth
  • Sudden, general body stiffness
  • Convulsions that involve rhythmic jerking of the face, arm, or leg on one or big sides
  • Sudden change in consciousness
  • Appearing to be awake but not responding
  • Appearing to be asleep but cannot be awakened
  • Grimacing, chewing, lip smacking, drooling, tongue biting, or loss of bowel or bladder control

Epilepsy Diagnosis

Your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and take a medical history. Any descriptions from witnesses to your seizures will be very helpful in the diagnosis. A physic al exam, including a detailed neurological exam, is necessary.

Various test may be done, such as:

  • An electroencephalogram (EGG). This is a painless test of your brain waves. In this test, a diagram is created of your brain waves.
  • An MRI of the brain
  • A CT scan of the brain
  • A spinal tap (lumber puncture, LP.)
  • Blood tests to check for signs of infection or abnormal blood chemistry

Treatment

There is no cure for epilepsy, but it is generally treatable. Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.

For most people, seizures can be controlled with medications. The following may also be used:

  • A pacemaker for the brain (vagus nerve stimulator) can be used for people with seizures that are not well controlled by medicine
  • Surgery on the brain

For some people, epilepsy eventually goes away.

Home Care Instructions

  • Follow your health care provider’s recommendations on driving and safety in normal activities
  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep can cause triggers
  • Only take over the counter or prescription medication as directed by your health care provider. Take any prescribed medicine exactly as directed
  • Avoid any known triggers of your seizures
  • Keep a seizure diary. Record what you recall about any seizure, especially any possible trigger.
  • Make sure the people you live and work with know that you are prone to seizures. They should receive instructions on how to help you.
  • In general, a witness to a seizure should:
    • Cushion your head and body
    • Turn you on your side
    • Avoid unnecessarily restraining you
    • Not place anything inside your mouth
    • Call for emergency medical help if there is any question about what has occurred

Follow up with your health care provider as directed. You may need regular blood tests to monitor the levels of your medicine.

Seizures & Epilepsy

Seizures in the Workplace

October 7, 2019

When I started having nocturnal seizures, I never worried about having a seizure at work because they were only happening in my sleep. When I was first diagnosed, I was in the hospital for a couple days to figure out what why I was having seizures. The company I was working for at the time, knew what was going on and they were VERY supportive. I felt comfortable talking to them about the seizures, my doctors, medications, etc. I became really good friends with my coworkers. After I left the company, they still kept in touch with me and I updated them about my health. When I left the company and joined a new company, I did not want to tell them I had epilepsy. I kind of felt embarrassed, but also I wanted to start fresh and keep my health condition private. When my nocturnal seizures turned into day time (partial complex seizures), I could have a seizure anytime and anywhere.

On the 4th day of my new job, I was going to an event with one with my new coworkers. It was the first time I met her and we were taking a train from San Diego to Anaheim. When we get to the event, I met another co-worker on my team and he was also taking the train back with us. Both of them – super cool. On the way back to San Diego, my coworker offered me a piece of beef jerky, I took one bite and felt an aura. An “aura” is so hard to explain. It is kinda like a deja vu. I feel this sense of fear/anxiety and before you know it, the seizure started so fast. My coworker asked “are you ok” “she is not breathing!”. Everyone rushes to me, trying to help. As soon as I got out of it, I yelled “I am ok, I have epilepsy!”. A passenger who was a doctor asked me if I should stop the train. I said “there was no need”. I looked at my coworkers and say “so ya I have epilepsy…”

The next day at work, my manager says if I need someone to talk to. I guess someone at the event passed away with a heart attack. I didn’t know about this, I thought she was talking about my seizure. So I told her what happened on the train, she was empathetic. On my 4th day of work, everyone new that I had epilepsy.

Everyone asks if people with epilepsy are supposed to tell your manager/coworkers that you have seizures. Honestly, it is personal preference. I really had no choice to decide. My seizures decided to tell them. I’m getting more comfortable in telling people I have epilepsy. Once you educate them about it, you will feel better.