Certain medications and drugs could cause seizures. The risks of recreational drugs may put you at higher risk of having a seizure or it could negatively interact with your seizure medication. Recreational drugs such as cocaine may cause seizures, even in someone who has never had a seizure before. Other recreational drugs like tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) and cannabidiol (CBD, a substance in marijuana which does not cause psychoactive effects) can help seizures as well as provoke them. However, not enough is known about which ingredients and how much of them can help or harm people with seizures. More research is needed about the use of medical marijuana and its risks or benefits. Other prescription medications such as antidepressants (ie: Wellbutrin) or pain medication (ie Tramadol) may also place you at an increased risk for seizures.
There is currently no specific cure for epilepsy. Certain types of seizures are associated with childhood and may go away into adulthood. Some adults who have epilepsy may be very well controlled on medication and sometimes may be considered for medication discontinuation. This is a highly personalized multifactor topic and would need to be discussed with your provider.
Patients with epilepsy are encouraged to follow a well balanced, healthy diet. The ketogenic diet may be advised for some patients with difficult to treat epilepsy. This is a very strict diet with complete elimination of carbohydrates. It is not advised for most patients with epilepsy, but if you are interested you can ask your provider.
Unfortunately, some people with epilepsy will experience memory loss or difficulty learning. If someone is having very frequent temporal lobe seizures it may start to impact a person’s memory. It is also common for a patient to experience memory loss surrounding their seizure or following a seizure. This time following a seizure as the patient recovers is referred as the post ictal period and length of time to regain normal memory function can vary from person to person, but often takes a day, also memory loss can be often due to side effects of some anti seizure medications.
Yes. How? There are innumerable indirect causes of death due to seizures. For instance, a patient not adhering to proper precautions climbs up to the roof of a house and experiences a seizure episode. They may fall and sustain injuries or fractures depending on severity, and death may be a possibility. In some instances, Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) may occur. These cases are not related to injury, fall, drowning, or other known indirect causes, but most of them happen during or immediately after a seizure occurs. The exact explanation for how this happens is not known, however, multiple possible reasons include apnea (not breathing) for an extended amount of time, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, or the combination of both apnea and abnormal heart rhythm. People that are at risk for SUDEP are mostly those with generalized convulsive seizures and uncontrolled seizures. Please, ask your provider if you have further concerns.
While it is not prohibited in the United States, in many countries, donating blood as a patient with epilepsy is prohibited for several reasons. Convulsive syncope, which is a sudden reaction to intense fear or anxiety, can cause decreased blood flow to the brain, resulting in this seizure-like reaction. The stress caused to the body can also lower the seizure threshold, especially in patients suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. There are people who are suffering from epilepsy yet have done blood donations multiple times without any issues. Meanwhile, there are also those who report having seizures within an hour after the blood donation was done. Studies have been searched from five databases (MEDLINE, Embase, The Cochrane Library, Web of Science and CINAHL) (Kellens et al, 2018) but none of them conclusively demonstrates that patients with epilepsy who donated their blood are at an increased risk of adverse events. However, there are only a small number of low-quality studies that can be found, and further research is needed to determine how long a patient with epilepsy needs to be excluded from donating blood. If you ha further concerns, please check with your provider.
Yes, you can fly with seizure precautions. According to the American Epilepsy Society, patients with uncontrolled epilepsy should not travel by commercial airplane as per guidelines from the Aerospace Medical Association. An airline may require clearance from a neurologist. There is always a concern of lack of medical help available during the flight and the necessity of having a companion during the flight must be considered. Change of time zones, sleep deprivation, and delayed/long flights are factors that can cause stress and provoke seizures to occur. It is advisable to plan in advance for an abortive seizure regimen, just in case.
Cannabis sativa is the most common type of cannabis plant used for marijuana. The active ingredients of this plant are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is considered effective in treating seizures, and with less adverse side effects. In recent studies CBD use resulted in a significant reduction in seizure frequency. While not all epilepsy patient should or would be considered for medical cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment option, some patients with uncontrolled seizures have reported improved seizure control when using medical cannabis. Please, ask your provider about CBD – based medications approved for treating epilepsy.
Radiotherapy is known to be associated with an acute inflammatory reaction that can lead to intracerebral edema and increased intracranial pressure. Hence, radiotherapy may cause or aggravate neurological symptoms including seizures. If you ha further concerns, please check with your provider.
Epilepsy can start at any age, but usually starts either in childhood or in people over 60.
Living with epilepsy entails challenges, however, it does not mean that independent living is impossible. It mostly depends on seizure severity. Some people may live on their own, alone or with immediate families, while others may need a more structured and/ or closely supervised living arrangement. Please, check with your provider if you have any further concerns.
No. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder related to neurons being easily excitable and becoming overactive in the brain, causing abnormal electrical activity. It is impossible to “catch” epilepsy from someone.
No, this is a misconception. A person diagnosed with epilepsy is not necessarily mentally delayed or mentally ill. However, epilepsy can at times be a difficult health burden, and some people who live with it do also report feeling anxiety or depression. That’s why it is important to have a provider who looks at the whole picture, paying attention to both the patient’s physical as well as emotional wellbeing.
No, there are many different types of seizures, and not all of them involve convulsions. Some other ways epilepsy can be experienced include uncontrolled jerking, stiffening, or complete relaxation of muscle groups, as well as feeling sensations of ‘deja vu’ or ‘spacing out.’
Yes. With proper treatment, many people with epilepsy can manage their condition and lead full, productive lives. Talk to your epilepsy specialist about ways to optimize your care.