At some point in your treatment your doctor may suggest reducing or changing your anti-epileptic drugs. This needs careful consideration since changes in treatment can result in an increased risk of seizures in the first year. And, of course, even a minor seizure will result in the loss of your licence for a further period. If your medication is withdraw the doctor will usually recommend that you stop driving for at least six months after the change is made.
Remember: If you stop taking your drugs for any reason and a seizure happens the rules governing epilepsy and driving will apply.
If driving is your job
Losing your licence is obviously even more distressing if you drive for a living.
- LGV/PSV licences:
At one time people with epilepsy were not allowed to drive large Goods Vehicles or Passenger Carrying Vehicles such as lorries or buses at all if they had had any seizure after five years of age. Today that rule has been relaxed and you can obtain and LGV/PCV licence provided you hold a full ordinary driving licence AND have been free of seizures for ten years AND have not had to take anti-epileptic drugs during this ten year period AND have been declared "fit to drive" after a medical examination by a consultant nominated by the DVLA
- Ordinary licences:
- Some jobs that involve driving are possible on an ordinary driving licence, providing your employer agrees. For example, if you passed your test before 1st January 1997 an ordinary driving licence entitles you to drive a light goods vehicle of up to 7.5 tonnes, if you are 18 or over, and a minibus with up to 17 seats if you are over 21. For those passing their test after 31st December 1997, the restrictions are vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and vehicles with up to 8 seats.
Now will be time time that you want to spend leisure time and holidays traveeling more, whether alone or with friends rather than with family as when you were younger. Careful planning can make holidays more enjoyable and if you have epilepsy, some extra precautions will help. Perhaps you will be going abroad for the first time. Everyone needs adequate travel and medical insurance cover. Ask one of the Epilepsy Associations for more advice about insurance. If you are flying for the first time, the cabin crew would prefer to know that you have epilepsy, especially if there is a likelihood that you could have a seizure while you are on board.
Make sure that you have enough medication for your trip. Always travel with spare medication in your hand luggage in case your main luggage is delayed or lost. Carry a copy of your prescription both for replacement purposes and to prove that you need the drugs for your medical condition. It could be that your drugs are ilegal in the country you are intending to visit. You can contact the Consultate to check the position before you travel. A copy of the Traveller's handbook for people with epilepsy will give you more helpful suggestions. This can be obtained from the International Bureau, PO Bos 21, 2100 AA Heemstede, The Netherlands (Tel: 0031 23 237411.
At work it is a good idea to have at least one close colleague who is well prepared should a seizure occur. You may also like to tell others so they are not taken by surprise and can carry on with their work without interruption. Contact your Epilepsy Association for the first aid leaflets which you can give to your fellow workers.
Developing relationships is an enjoyable part of adult life and it is important that you do not allow epilepsy to be a barrier to this. Having epilepsy should not prevent you from presenting yourself to others in the best possible light, and if you can show that it is not a problem for you, then it should not be a problem for others. Many people with epilepsy develop healthy, happy, long-term relationships. To achieve this for yourself means being open and frank, and avoiding the tension that secrecy creates. Your partner will repect your honesty and find it easier to deal with your epilepsy.
Before a sexual relationship develops, you should ask your doctor for advice about contraception. Some anti-epileptic drugs interfere with the effectiveness of the oral contraceptive (the pill) and so an alternative method might be better for you.
In long-term relationships you may wonder about having children eventualy, and what effect your epilepsy will have. Any child has a 1 in 200 chance of developing epilepsy, and the odds rise if one or both parents have epilepsy. The actual chance of a child developing epilepsy depends on what type of epilepsy you and/or your partner has and also what is causing it. When you are ready to find out about this, ask your GP who may wish to refer you to a specialist for advice.
Like any other stage in life, young adulthood is full of promise, surprises and occasional disappointments. This is particularly true when entering employment. There are certain hazardous types of work unsuited to people with epilepsy but there are fare more which are entirely suitable.
Being realistic about your epilepsy is important if you are to avoid too many disappointments. A clear picture of what form your epilepsy takes will help others, such as a specialist careers officer, to give you the advice you require. Answers to the following questions will help you build that picture:
- What exactly happens when a seizure occurs?
- When do they happen (eg at night)?
- How often do they occur?
- Do you recognise any triggers?
- Do you feel that your medication has any side-effects which are relevant (eg slowing you down, affecting your memory)?