Epilepsy - leisure, safety and risks

Epilepsy is a very individual condition, so choices about whether or not to participate in particular activities or sports need to be made on an individual basis, depending on the type and frequency of seizures and the level of control with medication. People who still have seizures will need to take more precautions than those whose epilepsy is completely controlled.

Many people with well-controlled epilepsy explained that their condition had not stopped them doing things that they enjoyed. They continued with activities such as sports, and many also said that they drank alcohol in moderation.

People with poorly-controlled epilepsy often experienced more restrictions. Driving and some sports were frequently mentioned, as well as safety in the home. 

Some people with poorly-controlled epilepsy discussed falling during a seizure. Sometimes, nearby objects, (such as a hot iron in the home or tools in the workplace) can also cause injuries during a seizure. People also discussed making alterations to their home in order to reduce the risk of injury during a seizure. One man, who had frequent non-epileptic seizures, discussed some of the changes he'd had to make to his home.

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Those with poorly-controlled epilepsy also discussed the impact their epilepsy had had on sports. Several discussed going swimming with friends or family members. A few people reported that they were wary of going swimming when they were first diagnosed but later went back to it. One man said that he had stopped playing rugby because of possible injuries. Some people we interviewed mentioned not being able to go diving. One woman also noted that she did not let her epilepsy interfere with any other activities.

Some people with poorly-controlled epilepsy discussed their lack of independence and noted some of the activities they could not do alone for safety reasons. One woman said she would like to be able to go horse riding and country-walking alone. Another said she would have liked the opportunity to live alone. She also pointed out that she kept away from things that trigger her seizures.

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Some people choose to carry an information card or wear an identification bracelet or pendant to alert others to their epilepsy. People who live alone sometimes install a seizure alarm. One man discussed some possible risks with electrical equipment and sports. He also advised that each person should work out their own limits as to safety and risks.

Some situations, such as status epilepticus are a medical emergency. In some rare cases, previously healthy people die suddenly with no apparent cause. This is known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) (for links to more information on SUDEP see our resources section). One man discussed his brother's death from SUDEP.  

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Although some people may face increased risks in certain activities, epilepsy need not prevent people living independent and active lives. It is helpful to keep risk in perspective and find a realistic balance between personal safety and personal freedom.

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated March 2014.


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