Epilepsy - leisure, safety and risks
Epilepsy is a very individual condition, so choices about whether or not to participate in particular activities or sports need to be made on an individual basis, depending on the type and frequency of seizures and the level of control with medication. People who still have seizures will need to take more precautions than those whose epilepsy is completely controlled.
Many people with well-controlled epilepsy explained that their condition had not stopped them doing things that they enjoyed. They continued with activities such as sports, and many also said that they drank alcohol in moderation.
People with poorly-controlled epilepsy often experienced more restrictions. Driving and some sports were frequently mentioned, as well as safety in the home.
Some people with poorly-controlled epilepsy discussed falling during a seizure. Sometimes, nearby objects, (such as a hot iron in the home or tools in the workplace) can also cause injuries during a seizure. People also discussed making alterations to their home in order to reduce the risk of injury during a seizure. One man, who had frequent non-epileptic seizures, discussed some of the changes he'd had to make to his home.
Discusses some of the changes he made to his home.
Those with poorly-controlled epilepsy also discussed the impact their epilepsy had had on sports. Several discussed going swimming with friends or family members. A few people reported that they were wary of going swimming when they were first diagnosed but later went back to it. One man said that he had stopped playing rugby because of possible injuries. Some people we interviewed mentioned not being able to go diving. One woman also noted that she did not let her epilepsy interfere with any other activities.
Discusses going swimming with friends.
I used to go swimming every Friday but there were always somebody there that knew me. Going a lot, you see, everybody knew me. And in fact I did have an attack at the swimming baths, I can remember while I were there, and that was in the changing room while I were there. And one of the lads that were there, he run down for me mother. And it must have been a big attack while I were there. Because he wouldn't have run down for me mother if he hadn't, if uh, he wouldn't have run down for her at all at the time. But you see everybody were considerate, they sort of knew me. They sort of knew. You see if you go to certain places all the time, people get to know you, they know who you are and if owt happens they help you. They help you, they do help you.
Explains that, although she can't go diving, she does not let her epilepsy affect other activities.
'But I've never let it affect my social life or going out and dancing all night or anything like that, which is probably not the most sensible thing to do but you know I have a bit of a personal policy about it which is that I won't let it rule my life and I won't be subject to it if you see what I mean.
Some people with poorly-controlled epilepsy discussed their lack of independence and noted some of the activities they could not do alone for safety reasons. One woman said she would like to be able to go horse riding and country-walking alone. Another said she would have liked the opportunity to live alone. She also pointed out that she kept away from things that trigger her seizures.
Identifies some of the activities she can't do alone because of safety.
So I don't have a job, I can't drive, I don't know how much alcohol I can safely take with the tablets I'm on at the moment, mainly because one doctor was a bit wary a while ago of telling me what to take so I just thought it was safer not to use alcohol. And now I've been without alcohol for so long I think if I did have a drink it would go straight to my head, so it's probably not worth the risk. You know I can't drive home, I can't do the ironing by myself, it's only sensible to make sure there's another adult around when I get into a bath, so most of the time its quick strip washes with several bowlful's of water if I'm alone. It's this sort of minor restriction that is irritable to somebody who has epilepsy but not even thought of by someone who doesn't because it is comparatively trivial. But when it happens day after day after day that trivia tends to waste away and it becomes sometimes a nuisance and sometimes a big irritation.
Some people choose to carry an information card or wear an identification bracelet or pendant to alert others to their epilepsy. People who live alone sometimes install a seizure alarm. One man discussed some possible risks with electrical equipment and sports. He also advised that each person should work out their own limits as to safety and risks.
Notes some of the possible risks with electrical equipment and sports.
'So I think one has to be sensible and go for sports and things that are, are not going to aggravate the situation. But that doesn't mean one doesn't do any sport. I know there are several sufferers who run marathons and things like that and I think that is admirable and I think that those who can do that should because they do raise a lot of money.
Advises that each person should work out their own limits as to safety and risks.
Since then I haven't done anything silly but I've enjoyed stiff walks up mountains and things like that. And I think it's important, as long as you know your parameters, not to be overly protective. I'd say this to carers as well as sufferers but don't be silly, go within your parameters in all walks, whether it be your employment, your leisure, and I would strongly advise that.
Some situations, such as status epilepticus are a medical emergency. In some rare cases, previously healthy people die suddenly with no apparent cause. This is known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) (for links to more information on SUDEP see our resources section). One man discussed his brother's death from SUDEP.
Discusses his brother's death from SUDEP.
He'd had the condition since the early '70s and I think that one of the main questions that people ask me is 'Do you think it would have made a difference to him if he'd know about it?' My comment to that would be, because he was a very strong character, that if I'd gone to him in 1994 and said 'Do you know about this thing called SUDEP and it says, as the epilepsy charity states, better control means you know there's less chance of you dying from the condition.' I think his answer to that probably have been 'Well I've had it this long, i.e., 20 years, the chances of it happening to me now would be virtually non existent.'
How old was he?
[My brother] was 41 when he actually died, he developed the condition after an accident as I say in the early '70s, so he was in his first or second year at university.
Although some people may face increased risks in certain activities, epilepsy need not prevent people living independent and active lives. It is helpful to keep risk in perspective and find a realistic balance between personal safety and personal freedom.
Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated March 2014.