Lifestyle Modification Considerations for Epilepsy
As with many chronic medical conditions, lifestyle adjustments can be an important part of epilepsy treatment. The impact of epilepsy can vary dramatically among individuals depending on the severity of the disorder, any co-existing medical or neurological problems, and social challenges.
Stress management counseling is important, as stress is often cited as a trigger for seizures. It can also lead to sleep deprivation, another common trigger. Stress can come in many forms, including financial, occupational, relational and social.
Depression commonly occurs with epilepsy. Symptoms may be subtle, and depression can accompany other conditions, such as anxiety. Depression and anxiety are very treatable conditions that can have a major effect on quality of life. Psychiatric care may sometimes be requested in situations that are severe or urgent.
Part of coming to terms with a chronic condition such as epilepsy is working toward a good quality of life by adapting to potential limitations that a seizure disorder can bring. This includes taking advantage of public transportation if driving is restricted, and tapping into other community resources and services for which you may be eligible. The Epilepsy Foundation of Chicago is a good resource for patients and families affected by epilepsy.
While you and your care team work to control or eliminate your seizures, understand that the process can take a long time. In the meantime, it’s important that you set goals and take steps to adapt your lifestyle to accommodate your condition. The unpredictable nature of seizure recurrences is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of epilepsy, and it can render people fearful and insecure. It is important that you report recurrences to your physician so that they can be promptly addressed.
Lifestyle modifications can include:
- Adequate sleep: Fatigue is one of the most common seizure triggers, and disrupted sleep can make the brain more vulnerable to misfiring.
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol: These can be triggers for seizures in patients with epilepsy. Even one or two drinks can provoke seizures.
- Minimizing emotional stress: Although there is not definitive proof that stress causes seizures, those who maintain healthy stress levels have reported that they believe it reduces their risk.
- Frequency of exercise: In addition to a range of health benefits, regular exercise can help reduce risk of seizure. However, you should consult your physician before starting a new exercise routine, as some exercise can, rarely, cause seizures.
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