Epilepsy and Work


Work is made slightly more complicated for people who suffer from epilepsy than it is for other people, but it is not impossible. On the contrary, it is beneficial for epilepsy sufferers.

After all, it helps them to socialise, coordinate their movements and increase cognitive abilities (knowledge and awareness of their own limits).

However, it is not possible to force a person with epilepsy to work. It is up to the patient to choose a job that corresponds to their abilities (cognitive abilities, vision problems that could include near/far-sightedness, depth perception, perception of distance from objects, ability to read and write), which may vary depending on the main active substances in the treatments they take.

There are other determining factors that should not be ignored when choosing a job for a person who suffers from epilepsy. For example, it is advised to avoid particularly intense noises, floodlights, lights of varying and intermittent intensity, or even switching between well-lit and dark working areas.

In addition, it should also be borne in mind that certain patients with epilepsy have involuntary movements (due to drug treatments) that can put them in danger when doing certain professional activities: working at a height, on their own or needing to drive a vehicle is contraindicated.

Work that involves a certain level of physical effort should also be performed with caution, as this can trigger an electrolyte imbalance; such a change in plasma concentration can lead to problems in treating epilepsy. Excessive exertion involves a certain level of muscle activity (dilation and contraction of muscles), which can trigger an epileptic seizure.

Epilepsy: precautions to take when choosing a job

In all cases, and regardless of what job a person with epilepsy has, it is important to stop working if an aura (warning sign) appears, because this indicates that the brain is “overheating” and that an epileptic seizure is imminent. If the patient successfully gets the aura to subside, they can start back at work the next day. In cases where the same aura keeps occurring when doing the same task, the patient’s job should be altered.

Try to perform the same tasks again several times, because those that trigger aura can help to better cope with the different factors that trigger epileptic seizures.

Even though the person with epilepsy is not obligated to disclose their illness to their employer, it is sometimes preferable to warn them and colleagues, so that they can help anticipate a potential seizure and know what to do if it happens.

For further information: Epilepsy Society


Last updated: 01/05/2017

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