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If you have recently been diagnosed with epilepsy you may have a lot of questions and may be experiencing a range of emotions. Our Helpline provides the opportunity to talk to someone in confidence about your own situation.
The helpline is for anyone affected by epilepsy, including family and friends of people with the condition. Call 0808 800 2200 any time between 10am and 4.30pm from Monday to Friday, to speak to a helpline advisor. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or text us on 07786 209 501.
The following sections contain information which may help to answer some of the questions you have.
In the past people with epilepsy could fill in a form to get free prescriptions. This is no longer necessary as everyone in Scotland now gets free prescriptions.
If you have had any type of seizure, including aura sensations, you must inform DVLA by law and you will lose your licence. For any type of seizures that impairs your level of consciousness you have to be seizure free for one year until you get your licence back. Different rules apply for any type of seizure which does not impair your level of consciousness, such as a simple partial seizure. These usually do not affect your ability to drive, and you may get your licence back after six months even though you may continue to have these type of seizures. You can contact the DVLA by telephoning their medical unit on 0300 790 6806, or by completing a form available at www.dvla.gov.uk/
There are different regulations if you have sleep seizures. If one year has passed and you have only had sleep seizures during this time, and no seizures while awake, you can get your driving licence back. In a few cases, if there is no history or diagnosis of epilepsy and you have only had one seizure, it may be possible to get your licence back after 6 months. There are stricter guidelines for LGV / PCV licences. See our Epilepsy and driving factsheet for more information:
If you are unable to drive for medical reasons please read the following section about free bus travel in Scotland.
Many people find losing their driving licence one of the most difficult parts of having epilepsy. If you meet the minimum age requirement for a UK driving licence (aged 17), have had one seizure in the last 12 months and are receiving treatment for epilepsy then you will be entitled to free bus travel throughout Scotland. Anyone under the age of 17 may also be entitled to a free bus pass provided they meet other disability criteria. Please call our helpline on 0808 800 2200 for an application form and more information, or see our Free Bus Pass section which explains eligibility criteria in more detail and how to apply.
Some people find that their employment can be affected by their epilepsy. For example your job may require you to drive or work with machinery. The Equalities Act 2010 protects people who have a disability who are in work, or looking for work. The only occupation exempt from the Act is the armed forces. For more information on disability legislation see our factsheet on the Equality Act.
People with epilepsy can do the vast majority of jobs. People with less well controlled seizures may need to think about the type of work they can do for health and safety reasons. If you want to discuss your work situation with someone, please call our helpline on 0808 800 2200. Our Epilepsy and employment and Epilepsy and occupational health guides provide more information on employment rights for both employees and employers.
There are safety factors you may need to consider if you are having unpredictable seizures. These include taking precautions when bathing or showering.
A shower is considered to be a safer alternative than a bath, although not entirely risk-free. Ensure that the water temperature control is working and never use very hot water. A shower with a flat floor is ideal. If this is not possible, avoid a shower with a high lip where the water could be trapped if you fall. Sitting in the shower can help avoid injury if you fall during a seizure. For more information on ways to reduce risk view our Staying safe with epilepsy guide.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are the most common way of treating epilepsy. Up to 70% of people with epilepsy, who are taking anti-epileptic drugs, will have their seizures controlled. Side effects are a concern for many people with epilepsy. Most people, who do experience side effects, find that they are mild and may reduce as their body becomes used to the medication. It is important to discuss any concerns you have regarding side effects with your doctor.
A skin rash should be reported immediately to your doctor.
Some anti-epileptic drugs can interact with other medications, e.g. the contraceptive pill. Speak to your doctor or nurse about this and see our Treatment guide for more information.
Our Woman's guide to epilepsy contains information on issues specific to women with epilepsy.
Women also need to be aware that some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) can interfere with the contraceptive pill. Call 0808 800 2200 for more information or speak to your doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse.
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 some 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. Women with epilepsy are recommended to take 5mg of folic acid prior to conception and for the first three months of pregnancy. For more information call the freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200.
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.
For information on first aid for friends, family and colleagues see our First Aid section.