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Does Having Epilepsy Mean My Entire Life Will Change?

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 12:55

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Epilepsy is a condition that cannot be ignored. With proper treatment, however, epilepsy can be well managed in 80% of cases.

Epilepsy should not be a reason to remove yourself from the joys and responsibilities of daily living. People with epilepsy can work, be with children, go out with friends, play sports, and have meaningful relationships, including marriage.

In short, there is very little in life that having epilepsy should prevent you from doing.

There are, however, some distinct areas of life that may be affected by epilepsy:

Social And Behavior Problems

Although epilepsy causes no differences in intelligence or behavior, people with epilepsy tend to be slightly less likely than the general population to attain higher education, hold jobs, marry, and have children. These difficulties may be due in part to fear of having an unexpected seizure. Seizures can have embarrassing consequences and other people are sometimes cruel or tend to avoid people who have epilepsy.

Rates of depression and suicide are also higher among those who have epilepsy. Some antiepileptic drugs may cause depression.

Counseling services and epilepsy support groups can help families learn to cope and live with epilepsy in ways that are positive.


Most states require a person who has epilepsy to show that they have gone a certain length of time without having a seizure. This period varies from a few months to several years.

  • Some states make exceptions for people whose seizures don't impair consciousness.
  • Some states will issue restrictive licenses that limit, for example, the distance and time of day a person with epilepsy is allowed to drive.

Studies have shown that the risk of having a seizure-related accident decreases as the length of time since the last seizure increases.


People with epilepsy can and should participate in recreational activities. Sports and other recreation have a very positive effect. Activities such as jogging and football are perfectly safe as long as the person avoids dehydration, overexertion, and low blood sugar.

People with epilepsy should avoid sports such as skydiving in which a moment's inattention might be very dangerous. Other activities such as swimming and sailing should be done cautiously and with supervision.


About a third of men with epilepsy experience difficulty getting an erection. Women with epilepsy may experience pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness. Antiepileptic medications also may affect sexual desire or arousal. Fear of having a seizure during sex may also affect one's personal feelings about oneself as a sexual being.

There is help, however, for problems relating to sexuality in epilepsy.

  • Medication is available to help with erectile dysfunction.
  • Special creams and gels can be purchased over the counter to help take care of vaginal dryness.
  • A certified, experienced sex therapist may be able to help couples and individuals deal with specific sexual problems related to epilepsy.

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