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Friday, 7 January, 2000, 01:05 GMT
Epileptics fail to seek medical advice
GP consultation
Patients fail to go to their GP
One in six epileptic patients who experienced seizures in the past year, did not reveal details to their GP, researchers have found.

Dr Jamie Dalrymple from the University of East Anglia and Dr John Appleby from the King's Fund in London suggest that a reluctance to report seizures may be because epilepsy affects sufferers' eligibility for a driving licence and access to employment and leisure activities.

The researchers, whose work is published in the British Medical Journal, analysed responses from 111 epileptic patients to an anonymous questionnaire.

Epilepsy driving regulations
An epileptic patient can only hold a private driving licence if they have been seizure-free for a year
They can drive if it has been established over a three-year period that they only have seizures when asleep
They can only hold a commercial licence if they have been free of seizures and off medication for ten years
Forty-two patients had previously admitted to their family doctor that they had experienced a seizure within the last twelve months.

However, in the anonymous questionnaire 60 patients admitted to a recent seizure.

Of these 40 per cent held a driving licence, only a quarter of whom admitted this to their doctor.

The authors conclude that some patients clearly perceive that the benefits of concealment of seizures outweigh the risks.

However, they warn that such concealment can lead to inadequate treatment.

They say that doctors need to put more effort into explaining this to patients.

'Not the right thing to do'

Professor John Duncan, medical director of the National Society for Epilepsy, said he was not surprised by the findings.

"It is not the right thing to do, but I can entirely sympathise with people who have been seizure free for a couple of years, have an attack and think it was probably and one off so I won't tell my doctor.

"However, the driving regulations are there for a good reason. If they carry on driving then they might have a another seizure that gives rise to an accident."

Professor Duncan said it was important that patients who experienced a seizure did contact their GP so that their medication could be reviewed.

He said: "There is also some evidence to suggest that a one off seizure may damage the brain and may make further seizures more likely to occur."

See also:

28 Jun 99 | Health
Public 'ignorant' about epilepsy
10 Aug 99 | Health
On-line community for epilepsy
28 Jun 99 | Health
Video game key to epilepsy
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