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Health Issues

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Epilepsy

Living Your Life

Some people with certain types of seizures may be able to reduce or completely stop their seizure medicines after having no seizures for several years. Certain types of childhood epilepsy goes away or improves with age -- usually in the late teens or 20s.

For some people, epilepsy may be lifelong condition. In these cases, the seizure drugs need to be continued.

Death or permanent brain damage from seizures is rare, However, seizures that last for a long time or two or more seizures that occur close together (status epilepticus) may cause permanent harm. Death or brain damage are most often caused by prolonged lack of breathing, which causes brain tissue to die from lack of oxygen. There are some cases of sudden, unexplained death in patients with epilepsy.

Serious injury can occur if a seizure occurs during driving or when operating dangerous equipment. For this reason, people with epilepsy whose seizures are not under good control should not do these activities.

People who have infrequent seizures may not have any severe restrictions on their lifestyle.

Prevention

Generally, there is no known way to prevent epilepsy. However, proper diet and sleep, and staying away from illegal drugs and alcohol, may decrease the likelihood of triggering seizures in people with epilepsy.

Reduce the risk of head injury by wearing helmets during risky activities; this can help lessen the chance of developing epilepsy.

Persons with uncontrolled seizures should not drive. Each state has a different law that determines which people with a history of seizures are allowed to drive. If you have uncontrolled seizures, you should also avoid activities where loss of awareness would cause great danger, such as climbing to high places, biking, and swimming alone

Complications

  • Difficulty learning
  • Inhaling fluid into the lungs, which can cause aspiration pneumonia
  • Injury from falls, bumps, or self-inflicted bites during a seizure
  • Injury from having a seizure while driving or operating machinery
  • Many epilepsy medications cause birth defects -- women wishing to become pregnant should alert their doctor in advance in order to adjust medications
  • Permanent brain damage (stroke or other damage)
  • Prolonged seizures or numerous seizures without complete recovery between them (status epilepticus)
  • Side effects of medications