Living with epilepsy: What to expect

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Epilepsy is chronic disorder that can affect many parts of your life.

Laws vary from state to state, but if your seizures aren’t well controlled, you may not be allowed to drive.

Because you never know when a seizure will occur, many everyday activities like crossing a busy street, can become dangerous. These problems can lead to loss of independence.

Some other complications of epilepsy may include:

  • risk of permanent damage or death due to severe seizures that last more than five minutes (status epilepticus)
  • risk of recurring seizures without regaining consciousness in between (status epilepticus)
  • sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, which affects only about 1 percent of people with epilepsy

In addition to regular doctor visits and following your treatment plan, here are some things you can do to cope:

  • Keep a seizure diary to help identify possible triggers so you can avoid them.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet so people know what to do if you have a seizure and can’t speak.
  • Teach the people closest to you about seizures and what to do in an emergency.
  • Seek professional help for symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Join a support group for people with seizure disorders.
  • Take care of your health by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Learn more about living with epilepsy »

Is there a cure for epilepsy?

There’s no cure for epilepsy, but early treatment can make a big difference.

Uncontrolled or prolonged seizures can lead to brain damage. Epilepsy also raises the risk of sudden unexplained death.

The condition can be successfully managed. Seizures can generally be controlled with medication.

Two types of brain surgery can cut down on or eliminate seizures. One type, called resection, involves removing the part of the brain where seizures originate.

When the area of the brain responsible for seizures is too vital or large to remove, the surgeon can perform a disconnection. This involves interrupting the nerve pathway by making cuts in the brain. This keeps seizures from spreading to other parts of the brain.

Recent research found that 81 percent of people with severe epilepsy were either completely or almost seizure-free six months after surgery. After 10 years, 72 percent were still completely or almost seizure-free.

Dozens of other avenues of research into the causes, treatment, and potential cures for epilepsy are ongoing.

Although there’s no cure at this time, the right treatment can result in dramatic improvement in your condition and your quality of life.

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