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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 02:30 GMT
Epilepsy major injury risk 'low'
Brain scan
About 440,000 people in the UK have epilepsy
The risk of people with epilepsy suffering a major injury during seizures is low, US researchers say.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found 39 of 247 people with epilepsy were hurt during seizures, but 80% of the injuries were minor.

The study in Neurology said people with well-controlled epilepsy should not be considered any more at risk of injury than the general population.

Half of the 444,000 people in the UK with epilepsy are seizure-free.

But experts say as many at 70% of people with epilepsy could live without seizures if they took the right medicine.

The Mayo Clinic report also said employers and schools should not automatically impose restrictions on people with epilepsy.

'School bans'

In the UK, people with epilepsy cannot drive if they have had a seizure in the past year and schools have been known to prevent children with epilepsy going on school trips.

Neurologist Elson So, who led the study, said: "It is important to find a balance between seizure precaution and the freedom to enjoy life.

"Unnecessary restrictions of activity can adversely affect quality of life, often to a more serious extent than seizure attacks can do.

The problem is that people make assumptions about the condition and over-react
Epilepsy Action

"Ignoring the risk of injuries may have disastrous consequences for some people with epilepsy.

"However, overestimating the risk of injuries may unfairly impact on the rights of those with well-controlled epilepsy."

He urged employers and schools to do more to understand the condition and not treat people "arbitrarily".

He said past studies, which had overestimated the risk of injury, had analysed patients who were poorly-treated for the condition.

The study said people with epilepsy could reduce the risk of injuries by taking precautions when doing outdoor activities, taking prescribed medication regularly, avoiding situations that can worsen seizure reoccurrence - such as lack of sleep, and staying fit.

'Ridiculous'

A spokeswoman for the charity Epilepsy Action said she welcomed the report.

People with epilepsy should be treated on an individual basis, she said.

"Some people never have seizures once they are treated, others can have them many times a day.

"But the problem is that people make assumptions about the condition and over-react.

"We heard of one case where a woman, with well controlled epilepsy, was told to wear a helmet at work. It was ridiculous."

A spokeswoman for the National Society for Epilepsy said: "For people with epilepsy, risk depends on the type and number of seizures they have and how their seizures affect them.

"Keeping risk in perspective helps everyone to find a balance between staying safe and doing the things they want."




SEE ALSO:
Epilepsy
20 May 03 |  Medical notes


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