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Frequently asked questions

Answers to common epilepsy questions

These are some of the questions we get frequently asked at Epilepsy Scotland. If your question is not answered here, try our Epilepsy information section or contact us direct.

My GP has asked me to come in for an epilepsy review. What will this involve?

People with epilepsy are being asked by their GP or practice nurse to come in for a yearly epilepsy review. Reviews have been happening for a long time for people with other medical conditions like asthma and diabetes. The review is a good chance for you as the person with epilepsy to ask any questions you have. You can also talk over any concerns about your epilepsy. This could be anything from advice on medication to queries about seizures.  For more information, read Focus on your health - for people with epilepsy.

When can I get my driving licence back?

If you have had any kind of seizure you are required to contact DVLA (0300 790 6806) and have to stop driving for at least between six and twelve months. DVLA (Driving Vehicle Licensing Authority) regulations mean that people need to be free of any type of seizures which impair your level of consciousness and ability to drive for twelve months before they can hold a driving licence.   If you only have the kind of seizures which do not impair your consciousness, such as simple partial seizures, you may get your licence back after six months.  If you have only had one seizure, your EEG and brain scan were clear and you don't need to take anti-epileptic drugs, you also may be able to get your licence back after six months.The rules for sleep seizures differ. People who have had a period of one year with only sleep seizures (irrespective of whether this is during the night or day) but no seizures when awake can also have their licence back after one year.

The regulations for LGV / PCV licences are different and stricter. For more Information see our Driving factsheet.

People who are unable to drive because of a seizure are entitled to free bus travel throughout Scotland. Call our helpline on 0808 800 2200 for further information and check out our Free Bus Pass section which explains how to apply.

How can the doctor tell I have epilepsy when I haven't been sent for any tests?

Epilepsy is a difficult condition to diagnose as there is no single test to confirm epilepsy. The diagnosis is based on a description of the seizure or seizure-like episode and the person's medical history. Tests such as brain scans and an EEG (Electroencephalogram) can sometimes help to determine the cause or type of epilepsy but aren't always needed for diagnosis. For more information get our Diagnosis guide or call our helpline on 0808 800 2200.

How can my daughter have epilepsy when she hasn't had a convulsion?

When most people think about epilepsy they think of seizures where the person falls to the ground with jerking motions (a tonic-clonic seizure). However, there are many different types of seizure that people with epilepsy can experience. Not all seizures involve a loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a tendency to have repeated seizures and not everyone with epilepsy will have tonic-clonic seizures.

Our Seizures explained guide has more information on the different types of seizure people with epilepsy can experience. You can also find out more by calling our confidential freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.

 

I have epilepsy and I am pregnant. Are there any risks to my baby from taking anti-epileptic drugs?

Most women with epilepsy will have normal, healthy babies. However, as with any pregnancy there is a small risk of an abnormality and this risk is slightly higher if you are taking certain anti-epileptic drugs. Many of the abnormalities (foetal malformations) are minor, such as small nails or a broad nose. In a few cases there may be more serious problems such as heart defects and spina bifida, a condition affecting the development of the central nervous system. Some anti-epileptic drugs are known to be less of a risk than others.

Women with epilepsy are advised to plan their pregnancy in advance so the most suitable treatment for the woman and her baby can be discussed with a doctor. Check out our Planning a family factsheet for more information. 

Women with epilepsy are recommended to take 5mg of folic acid prior to conception and for the first three months of pregnancy. This has to be prescribed by a doctor. Our Woman's guide to epilepsy has more information on this and much more. If you are already pregnant, make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss the issues as soon as possible. Do not stop taking your epilepsy medication without medical advice.

If you want to chat about any of these issues, call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.

 

My son has just been diagnosed with epilepsy. Should I stop him from playing on his computer?

This will depend on the type of epilepsy. A very small proportion of people with epilepsy (less than 5%) have seizures triggered by flashing or flickering lights, which is known as photosensitive epilepsy.

For these people, the television is a common seizure trigger and sometimes, though much less often, using computers can be a problem. There are precautions people can take to reduce the risk. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or flat screens on computers and televisions do not flash and flicker and so remove the trigger for people with this type of epilepsy. However, LCD screens do not protect from flashing and flickering content.

Get our Photosensitive epilepsy factsheet for information on other ways to reduce the risk.  It is important to find out whether your son is one of the few people with photosensitive epilepsy. If he has had an EEG (Electroencephalogram) test they are likely to have checked for photosensitive epilepsy then. Ask your doctor if you are unsure.

 

I don't like taking tablets every day when I feel perfectly healthy. Will I ever be able to stop taking my anti-epileptic drugs?

If you are thinking of stopping your anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) you need to speak to your doctor before you do anything. This is because AEDs do not cure epilepsy, but taking them every day can keep seizures controlled. Stopping your AEDs may mean that you have a seizure. Some people can discuss slowly coming off their medication with their doctor if they have had no seizures for several years. You and your doctor will look at the type of seizures and epilepsy you have as well as the effect potential breakthrough seizures could have on your driving, work and lifestyle, when making the decision.

For more information get our Epilepsy and treatment guide or call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200. 

 

Am I entitled to any benefits because of my epilepsy?

Having epilepsy does not mean you are automatically entitled to benefits. It will depend on how you are affected by your epilepsy. In the past some people have received Employment Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. However the system is going through a lot of changes at the moment and some of these benefits are being changed.  A new benefit has been introduced called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which will eventually replace Disability Living Allowance.  Contact your local job centre and speak to the Disability Employment Advisor for uptodate advice. You can also call our helpline on 0808 800 2200 for more information.

All prescriptions are free in Scotland. Dental and optical costs are not covered. If you cannot drive because of your epilepsy you are entitled to free bus travel throughout Scotland.

For more information get our Epilepsy and Driving factsheet or see our Free Bus Pass section of the website which explains how to apply. You can also contact our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200. 

 

My doctor suggested I keep a record of my seizures to find any seizure triggers. What should I be looking for?

There are common triggers for seizures for some people which can include lack of sleep, missing meals, stress, too much alcohol and even boredom. Some women find that they are more likely to have seizures around their monthly period. If you can identify whether you have any particular triggers this can help you to manage your seizures better. Call our helpline on 0808 800 2200 if you would like a seizure diary to help track any triggers or patterns for your seizures or visit www.seizuretracker.com where you can log your seizure patterns for free.

 

Is it okay to drink alcohol when I have epilepsy?

Doctors' opinions on alcohol and epilepsy vary. Some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) can be affected by alcohol. Check your patient information leaflet to find out if this is the case with your AEDs. Some doctors advise people with epilepsy to avoid alcohol completely whilst others feel that in moderation it shouldn't be a problem. Speak to your own doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse for their advice and see our Alcohol factsheet for more information. 

 

I am due to fly abroad but I'm worried that flying could trigger a seizure. Is this likely?

There is no evidence to suggest flying can trigger a seizure. Be aware that early flights could mean less sleep or missed meals, which can be a seizure trigger. Keep your medication in your hand luggage in case your main luggage is misplaced. You may want to take extra supplies in case you are delayed coming home. Keeping the medication in its original container with a copy of your prescription should help avoid any problems at customs. If you are having problems getting travel insurance please contact our freephone helpline for advice on 0808 800 2200 and get a copy of our Travelling Abroad Factsheet

 

Can my employer sack me because I have epilepsy?

No, you cannot be sacked just because you have epilepsy. People with epilepsy are usually protected by the Equalities Act 2010. This Act makes it unlawful for people with a disability (that can include epilepsy) to be discriminated against when in or looking for work. The only occupation exempt from complying with the Act is the armed forces. For health and safety reasons those with less well controlled seizures will need to think carefully about the type of work they do.  Check out our Epilepsy and Occupational Health guide or Epilepsy and employment guide for more information, or call our confidential freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.

 

Is epilepsy covered by the Equalities Act 2010?

It is the person who is covered by the Act and not the disability. Each case is considered on an individual basis, however, you are likely to be covered if you have epilepsy. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service on 0808 800 0082 for expert advice, or phone our helpline 0808 800 2200.