Dealing with epilepsy is a
challenge -- for teens with the condition and their friends.
Being a teenager is an adventure. From driving to dating, sports to activities,
homework to your first job, teenagers face big challenges. Teens who have
epilepsy (also known as seizure disorders) face other big challenges too--such
as explaining seizures to other people; wondering how their friends are going to
react; and never knowing when the next seizure's going to happen.
A big challenge is the fact that other teens may not know much about epilepsy.
Nobody wants to be different, but sometimes there are differences that affect
people's lives -- and people just have to deal with it.
Seizures and You: Take Charge of the Facts
Seizures and You: Take Charge of the Facts is
an epilepsy awareness program targeting teenagers in middle and high school. The
program is designed to take place in one 45-minute class period. Seizures and
You: Take Charge of the Facts is designed to educate teens, dispel myths and
reduce the perceived stigma associated with epilepsy.
to our national website
for more information, videos and chat groups just for teens.
What is Epilepsy?
Why did epilepsy happen to me?
Thatís hard to say. Often, the doctors canít come up with a reason.
Some things that can lead to epilepsy are: problems in development before birth,
severe infections that involve the brain, a severe head injury, certain
genetic factors. But that doesnít mean that your epilepsy was caused by any of
Will I always have it?
That depends. Some people find that seizures go into remission after a
few years. Others will continue to have seizures unless they take meds to
Is there a cure for
Not yet. Medications donít cure epilepsy the way an antibiotic can cure
an infection. They only work if theyíre taken regularly. That doesnít mean
youíll have to take them for the rest of your life. After a while you and your
doctor may decide that slowly discontinuing your meds is worth a try. But thatís
something only your doctor can advise you about.
meds on your own.
You'd risk a bad seizure.
I take epilepsy meds and others, too. Sometimes it's
hard to remember what I've taken.
Time to get organized. That's your best bet to keep track of
medication. You could get a watch or a pillbox, or even a PDA with an alarm and
set it for each time you have to take a pill.
Is there any other way to
Surgery to remove a small area of the brain may work for some people.
Brain stimulation via a large nerve in your neck (vagus nerve stimulation, or
VNS, therapy) may help. There's also a diet (lots of fat, hardly any carbs--forget
the pizza and the bread--and no sugar) that helps little kids with seizures. But
it's not a
do-it-yourself diet. It's called the ketogenic diet. It's
serious medicine and you have to be really disciplined to make it work.
Thereís alcohol and sometimes drugs at parties. It
makes me feel really different to always say no. How would they affect my
Using either is a real risk, because drugs are against the law and
using alcohol -- if you are a minor -- is also illegal. You could get caught.
You donít want that kind of trouble. Besides, mixing street drugs with epilepsy
meds is even riskier. Some illegal drugs -- cocaine, for example -- can cause
seizures in people who donít even have epilepsy.
Other illegal substances, like pot, may contain all kinds of additives that
could be harmful to you. As for alcohol, itís unlikely to cause a seizure
immediately, but it may the following day. Remember, just one seizure can set
you back on qualifying for a driverís license.
Will I be able to go to college? Get a job?
Yes, to both. If your high school grades are good enough to get you into college
if you didnít have epilepsy, thereís no reason to think that having epilepsy
would be a barrier.
Sometimes, the meds might affect how quickly you can complete tests and similar
projects. In most cases, you should be able to work with the college
administration to take a lighter credit load and even have extra time to
complete your work.
The key to getting a job is to have marketable skills and some work experience.
Try building a resume with part time jobs while youíre still in high school and
at college, or do some volunteering or community service. Sometimes volunteer
jobs can become permanent ones.
My parents donít want me to play sports. They think itíll make the
seizures worse. But I really want to. How can I make them see how important this
is to me?
Have you tried raising this question with your doctor? He or she could
be a good ally -- depending on the sport and how your seizures affect you. Most
teens with epilepsy should be able to run track and play basketball or tennis or
other sports with no problems.
Swimming alone is not a good idea, at any time for anyone. Swimming with others
who know you have epilepsy and are good enough swimmers to help you if you
should have a seizure is a better plan.
Protective helmets can reduce the risk of head injury from cycling, baseball and
football, although not completely. Helping parents let go is never easy, and
itís especially tough when a teenager has a medical problem. Perhaps you can
convince them to let you try and see how things go.
Ever since I started having seizures Iíve felt very down and sad. I
worry all the time about having seizures. Nothing seems like fun any more. Could
the seizures be doing that, or is it just because I hate having epilepsy?
It could be a combination of both. It could also be the medicines. Tell
your parents how youíre feeling and see if you can get an appointment with your
doctor to find out what is causing you to feel this way. A change in medicine
might help. Depression and anxiety are not things to ignore. They can be treated
I think Iím more likely to have seizures when Iím really stressed or
tired. Is that possible?
Yes, being under stress or not getting enough sleep can trigger seizures in some
people. All nighters are not a good idea when you have epilepsy. That doesnít
mean you have to nap all the time, just get an average amount of sleep to feel
Someone told me flashing lights or even video games can cause seizures.
Is that right? I really like the games, and Iíve never had a seizure when
playing them. Whatís the story?
Some people are whatís called photosensitive, which means they may have
seizures if a light flashing at a certain rate is shined in their eyes or they
look at flashing images of light and dark.
If youíve had an EEG test, they probably did a photosensitivity test as well,
using a light, to see if your EEG would respond. If you didnít have a seizure,
or there were no telltale signs on your EEG, then flashing lights or flashing
video game images may not be a problem for you.