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Teens & Epilepsy
Marissa A. Broadley
As if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, now you’ve got this seizure thing to deal with also. More questions about your life are probably not just what you needed! So, to find some answers about seizures, start by reading the basic material in the Kids’ Chapter. Then read this chapter, which deals with issues of particular interest to teens.
Will I be able to drive?
Driving is probably the most exciting privilege that a person gains as a teenager. However, along with most privileges comes responsibility. People with seizure disorders have more responsibility when it comes to driving. Even though some people with epilepsy cannot drive, there are many who can. Your doctor should be able to tell you if and when you can drive; and if there are any limitations that you may have. For example, you may not be able to drive when you are switching medications. Your doctor can help you with the driving laws regarding epilepsy, which vary from state to state. Your doctor will tell you what she/he believes is in your best interest. Therefore, you should discuss any issues or questions with your doctor, including the following information.
Why can’t I drive?
Your doctor or/and the law may prohibit you from driving. However, keep in mind this may only be temporary. Here are some reasons why you may not be able to drive:
1. You had a seizure recently (different states require different time periods that you must be seizure free).
2. You are changing your anticonvulsant medication, and need to demonstrate that the new medication regimen is working well.
3. Your seizures are simply not well controlled.
What should I do if I can’t drive?
If you are unable to drive, there are some options to help you compensate for this limitation--as the inability to drive is often a social and economic hardship. Of course if you live in a city with public transportation --- YOU ARE SET!!!
But otherwise, you can:
1. Have friends and family members give you rides.
2. Use public transportation such as buses as available.
3. Choose an apartment, job, or college where driving is not required.
And if you can drive…
BE RESPONSIBLE!!! This is the only way to lower any risk of having a seizure and maintain your driver’s license.
1. Get enough sleep!!!
2. Do not use recreational drugs or alcohol.
3. Take your medication as your doctor recommends --- do not miss doses.
4. Do not drive if you “feel” like you may have a seizure.
5. Make sure all of the paper work for the department of motor vehicles is done correctly and in a timely fashion. (Some states have different laws about physicians reporting medical conditions to the department of motor vehicles. Make sure you know the information for your state.) The Epilepsy Foundation of America has information on every state’s driving regulations at www.efa.org/answerplace/
Bottom line: It’s lousy that you can’t drive during certain lengths of time. But it’s the law; and if you think about it, it’s the only safe thing to do—for others and yourself.
Should I tell friends and dates about my seizures?
If your seizures are infrequent, you can probably hold off on telling most friends and dates about your condition. However, once relationships get more serious, you probably should tell them. A great benefit to this is that they will know what to do if you have a seizure. If you are uncomfortable telling them, then only tell those who really need to know. Remember that if they reject you because you have epilepsy, those friends are not very good friends at all.
If you do decide to tell them, make sure they have the right information. You should include some things:
1. What is epilepsy?
2. How do they know if you are having a seizure?
3. What should they do if you have a seizure?
The answers to all of these questions are included in our “Chapter for Kids,” at www.pediatricneurology.com/seizures_for_kids.htm. In fact, you should probably read that chapter for yourself as well.
When relationships get really serious…
If sex should become even a possibility in a relationship, it is absolutely imperative that you talk with your doctors about it. It is important that partners know about the seizure disorder. Although some issues do involve males with epilepsy, most issues regarding sexual activity and epilepsy are related to females. Many anticonvulsants
can sometimes cause birth defects if you are taking them while you are pregnant. Most of the damage is done during the fetus’ exposure to the drug in the first few weeks of gestation...even before you know that pregnancy has occurred. Since this is the case, you want to make sure that the most effective contraception is used. Some anticonvulsants alter the effectiveness of the birth control pill and the morning after pill. Talk to your doctors—in advance!
Will I be able to get a job and have a career?
Getting a job
Some teenagers have summer and after-school jobs. Some want the extra money for fun things and others need to work to pay for necessities. If you should decide to work along with going to school, remember…
1. Make sure it does not interfere with your sleep. Sleep is essential for epileptics.
2. Do not stress yourself too much. Balancing school and extracurricular activities is hard enough on any teenager. Adding part-time employment is even more difficult. High level of stress is another risk factor for a seizure.
If the job increases your risk of having a seizure, you should probably reconsider working. Think about the consequences. Is it really necessary for you to have extra money to buy DVDs and shop? You health comes first!
As you get into your late teens, you may be thinking about what you want to do with your life. Well, for the most part, you should not have a problem doing what you want to do. Here are some careers you probably cannot have:
1. Commercial airline pilot (hey, they are strict. You have to have perfect vision for that, too!)
2. Livery driver (this means you can not have a job in which you drive vehicles for the purpose of the transportation of people, ie. buses, trains, cabs, planes, etc.).
3. You cannot join the armed forces. This includes but is not limited to the navy, army, marines, and airforce.
Other than that, you should not be too limited. Don’t let epilepsy get in the way of your dreams. You should be able to be what you want to be.
What are my rights?
When it comes to employment, you are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here are some sites that will give you the information you need.
Off to college!!!
If you are thinking about a career, you may also be thinking about college. College life involves a huge change of lifestyle, as you will probably be moving away from home to live in a dorm.
Now, it’s up to you to take care of yourself!!!!! This is a time when you will experience new things and become very independent. Your parents will no longer be able to make sure that you take your medicine every day or that you don’t stay out all night partying.
Here are some things you should do when you go to college.
1. Someone should know. You should probably tell your roommate but at least tell your RA (resident assistant) or RD (resident director). Both the RA and the RD usually live in the same building as you.
2. Do not party all night or pull all-nighters (plan in advance for tests and papers). You need your sleep!
3. Make sure you take your medications.
4. Do not experiment with recreational drugs.
5. Do not drink alcohol (you are probably too young to drink it anyway!)
6. Try not to be alone. Depending on the types of seizures you have, this may be very important. If you must be alone, do not do anything that could be potentially dangerous if you should have a seizure.
7. Take care around water: Showers are safer than taking baths alone. Someone who knows about your seizures should be watching you while swimming.
8. No climbing heights, in case you should fall.
9. Discuss driving with your doctor.
Drugs and Alcohol:
There is no question about it: using recreational drugs and/or drinking alcohol is very dangerous if you have a seizure disorder. This is because:
1. They can increase your risk of having a seizure.
2. They may interact with your anticonvulsant medication.
So, let’s face it. Some parts about having seizures simply stink. It’s not fair. But to put it very simply:
1. Nobody ever promised that life is completely fair. Realizing this simple fact is part of becoming an adult.
2. Everybody has something in his or her life that “isn’t fair.” Some kids are born into a life of poverty and starvation, some are born in countries without freedom, some have parents who don’t love them, some have…well, you get the idea.
Everyone has their problems; and you know what? Everyone makes it through them. You will, too. There is simply no other choice. It’s your life. Make the most of it!!
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