How Does Epilepsy Affect Daily Life?

Most people with epilepsy lead a typical life. Approximately 80 percent are helped by therapies, and some may go months or years between seizures. However, the condition can and does affect the lives of people with epilepsy, as well as their family and their friends. People with severe seizures that are resistant to treatment usually have shorter life expectancies and an increased risk of learning problems, especially if the seizures developed when they were young children. These problems may be related to the underlying conditions that caused the epilepsy or to epilepsy treatment rather than the epilepsy itself. Sometimes having epilepsy can impact a career choice, a person’s living and recreational activities (e.g. bathing and swimming alone) and if having break through seizures, the ability to drive a vehicle since having a seizure while doing these things could create danger for the individual or others.

All children with epilepsy should have a health plan on file at their school which tells teachers what to do if the child seizures during the school day which might include supporting the child, giving emergency medications, calling the parents and in some cases calling 911. Parents should work with the school system to find reasonable ways to handle any special educational or environmental supports their child may have.

Adults need to insure that those with them in the home, social setting and/or work setting know what to do in the event that they have a seizure.

Behavior and Emotions

Having epilepsy does increase the risk that a child or adult might have adjustment or mental health concerns. In some cases these issue relate to the epilepsy itself, the underlying condition causing the epilepsy, the medications used to treat the epilepsy or adjusting to the chronic condition of epilepsy. Sometimes individuals with epilepsy may have to cope with misperceptions about epilepsy by individuals in society which might create problems in the work place, in school or socially. Counseling services can help families cope with epilepsy in a positive manner. Epilepsy support groups also can help by giving people with epilepsy and their family members’ ways to share their experiences, frustrations, as well as tips for coping with the disorder.

Education and Employment

By law, people with epilepsy or other handicaps in the United States cannot be denied employment or access to any educational, recreational, or other activity because of their seizures. However, studies have shown that a lower percentage of individuals with epilepsy do complete high, obtain a college degree or are employed than in individuals without epilepsy. Some studies have been criticized as having a “referral bias” meaning they assessed these things in a group of individuals with more severe epilepsy. Studies focused on individuals with epilepsy in general society have been much more positive in terms of the educational and employment success of individuals with epilepsy.

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Epilepsy Prognosis