Health conditions

Epilepsy

  • Epilepsy is a serious neurological condition that affects 2 in every 100 people.
  • In WA about 20,000 people have epilepsy and 1,400 new diagnoses are made each year.
  • With treatment, epilepsy is manageable and people can live normal lives.
Causes

In many cases the causes of epilepsy remain unknown.

The condition is closely linked to the brain and can be triggered by structural brain abnormalities, injuries or infections affecting the brain, or a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Other known causes include:

Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis is essential for correct treatment for people with epilepsy because there are many different types of seizures.

Depending on age and other medical conditions, people displaying signs of epilepsy may be referred to:

  • a seizure clinic at a hospital
  • a private neurologist
  • a physician with experience in managing epilepsy.

Your history of epilepsy and whether you have other health conditions will determine what tests you may need. Standard tests used to diagnose epilepsy include an EEG (brain wave recording) or a brain scan.

Your specialist will work with you and your doctor to manage your epilepsy and advise you of tests and treatments.

You may also need the support of specialist nurses, family members, and other carers.

People with epilepsy can successfully and safely self-manage their condition with clear, accurate and appropriate information.

Self-care

If you suffer from epilepsy it’s important to carry a pocket card containing your personal information with you.

Your pocket card should include the following:

  • personal details
    • full name
    • date of birth
  • contacts – name and telephone number for your:
    • doctor
    • after hours locum medical services/GP clinics/hospital
    • epilepsy specialist or neurological nurse
    • carer details
    • emergency contact next of kin (including their relationship to you)
  • medication list
  • seizure type(s), symptoms and aura
  • list of any implanted devices
  • allergies/medical alert
  • first aid when a seizure occurs with or without warnings:
    • seizure duration
    • what to do
    • what not to do.

Self-care checklist

Remember:

  • Do not forget your medications – keep them with you at all times. Take medications regularly as prescribed – do not miss doses.
  • Wear your Medic Alert bracelet at all times.
  • Make sure your condition and whereabouts are known to your next of kin and co-workers.
  • Ensure that you have notified the local Department of Transport (licensing authority) about your condition.
  • Be informed about your epilepsy:
    • seizure type triggers
    • prodromal symptoms
    • aura.

Learn to recognise your trigger(s):

  • Be aware of what stresses you, and manage stress effectively.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Take regular exercise.
  • Minimise your alcohol consumption.
  • Eat a balanced diet regularly to maintain your blood sugar level.
Support

There are several support services and organisations in WA providing information, education and support to patients, families and carers, schools and workplaces about managing epilepsy.

Reporting a medical condition for driving

Department of Transport Western Australia

Rural services

People in rural areas should talk to their local country health service and general practitioner about specialty services available in rural areas by visiting neurologists.

Service feedback

Most health services have a customer liaison service that you can speak to if you have any concerns or feedback.

The Health Consumers’ Council of WA is an independent body, providing access to advocacy, information and support.

You can contact the Health Consumers’ Council of WA (Inc) (external site) on 9221 3422 or Freecall 1800 620 780.

Where to get help

  • Your care plan will tell you who to contact for non-urgent care.
  • If you have severe symptoms, always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency.
  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

Acknowledgements

Neurosciences and the Senses Health Network | Epilepsy Association of WA (Inc)


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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