Living with Epilepsy: Navigating Activities, Learning, and Memory
Posted on 12th February 2024
Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by having recurrent seizures, which can vary in type and severity. It's expected that 1 in 20 people will have a seizure at some point in their life, however as it doesn't keep recurring, it's not diagnosed as epilepsy.
For those living with epilepsy, there are often questions about what activities can be pursued, how epilepsy might impact learning, and whether it affects memory. In this blog post, we will explore these questions to provide a better understanding of living with epilepsy.
Lets get straight to it!
Can I Still Drive a Car if I have Epilepsy?
One of the most common concerns for individuals with epilepsy is whether they can engage in various activities without putting themselves at risk. The answer, in many cases, is yes. Epilepsy does not need to define your life or limit your experiences. However, it's essential to take some precautions and make informed choices.
Often a question is asked about being able to drive. In the UK, doctors have a legally obligation to inform the DVLA if you have epilepsy and whether or not you are medically fit to drive. There are many people with epilepsy who do drive and this is down to how well their epilepsy is controlled.
What Activities Can You Do with Epilepsy?
For activities of daily living, most people aren't affected until they have a seizure. For everyone with epilepsy, managing your lifestyle is very important and knowing your triggers is crucial. If you can manage your lifestyle and avoid triggers, most people can undertake the usual activities we all tend to undertake.
In terms of more varied activities like going to the cinema, exercising, mountain climbing and swimming; the answer will always be, is your epilepsy controlled and what are the triggers? If your triggers for having a seizure is stress, loud music or flashing lights, certain activities might be better avoiding, such as going to night clubs.
If you are newly diagnosed with epilepsy, it's crucial that you build up a diary of notes of how you feel, what activities you're doing, how much sleep have had overnight, what you've eaten etc for the first few months. This will allow you to identify activities or situations which trigger, or increase the risk of you having a seizure.
Does Epilepsy Make It Harder to Learn?
Epilepsy itself does not directly make learning harder. However, individuals with epilepsy may face specific challenges that can affect their educational journey:
Have a seizure during a class will no doubt impede your ability to learn. If it is a 'major' seizure, you'll need to rest afterwards and may need to return home, missing the rest of that school day. For some people, they have absent seizures which means they will miss parts of conversations or instructions, which will affect their ability to learn.
If you are epileptic, regardless of the type of seizure, your teachers and/or lectures must be informed. This will also allow them to respond appropriately if you have a seizure, but also keep an eye on you to ensure you're safe during the lesson.
Unfortunately some medication side-effects can have an impact on people's ability to concentrate, and therefore learn. You can discuss these potential effects with your healthcare provider, and consider adjusting your treatment plan if necessary.
Each person with epilepsy is unique, and their experiences with learning will vary. Some may excel academically, while others may face more challenges. The key is to understand your specific needs and advocate for the necessary support through your doctor or epilepsy specialist.
Can Epilepsy Affect Learning and Memory?
Although epilepsy doesn't in of it's self necessarily impact learning and memory, certain seizure types can affect people's ability to remember that event or cause brain damage. The most common type of seizure to do this is a tonic-clonic seizure.
Other types of seizures, such as absent seizures and complex partial seizures can also cause problems with memory as most people will not have a memory of their seizure occurring. This can result in the person being very confused and disorientated when they come back around from having a seizure.
As mentioned earlier, certain anti-epileptic medications can affect cognitive functions like memory. Knowing the side-effects of your medication and speaking with your pharmacist or G.P can help you find the right medication for you.
The emotional and psychological impact of epilepsy can indirectly affect memory and learning. If someone has anxiety and stress about their condition, it will impact their ability to learn; just like it does for everyone, regardless of if they have epilepsy or not. Coming to terms with your type of epilepsy is much easier said than done, however it is very important to engage with professionals and learn more about your type of epilepsy. With this knowledge comes the power to manage it more effectively.
To aid in your ability to learn, developing effective learning strategies can help mitigate the impact of epilepsy on memory and learning. These strategies might include taking notes, creating study schedules, and seeking academic support when needed. Asking the teacher or lecture to provide a handout for you in case you have missed some of the sessions. Some people find learning from a quite home environment means they can concentrate better, while other people prefers to be surrounded by others. Through trying different situations and studying techniques, you'll be able to find the ones that benefit you the most.
Living with epilepsy presents unique challenges, but it should not deter individuals from pursuing their goals, engaging in activities, or seeking an education. With proper management, support, and understanding, people with epilepsy can lead fulfilling lives and overcome the potential obstacles to learning and memory. Remember that epilepsy affects each person differently, so working closely with healthcare professionals and support networks is crucial to navigating the condition successfully.
We hope this has been useful for you and answered any queries or concerns you've had about epilepsy for you.
Free feel to check out our other blogs for more information about a whole range of topics.
If you would like some training on epilepsy, book yourself on one of our face to face Epilepsy Awareness training courses or on one of our e-learning Epilepsy Awareness courses.
Care Planning & Risk Assessment Course
Epilepsy Awareness Training Course
Person Centered Care & Dignity
If you would like training on the most essential area of care, this course is for you. Transform your staff's understanding and develop them to be able to deliver culturally appropriate care.
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