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#EpilepsyAwareness: Parenting a teenage girl with epilepsy

Readers Lounge By Fredrick Beuchi Mboya
Girls with epilepsy may be at higher risk of mood swings (Shutterstock)

Having epilepsy usually does not affect how or when you go through puberty. Most girls begin noticing these changes between the ages of 10 and 14 years – but it may happen earlier or later in some girls.

Girls with epilepsy may be at higher risk for such mood problems, both due to the epilepsy itself and possibly due to anti-seizure medication (ASM).

Some girls might find that they are more likely to have seizures at certain times of the month - usually either halfway between periods (mid-cycle) or near the start of her period. This is called “catamenial epilepsy” and is due to hormone effects on the brain.

Not all girls will notice such a pattern. If you do, talk to your neurologist about ways to better control your seizures.

A teenager may feel pressured to drink alcohol or use drugs. It is likely that a teenager will get convinced that they will feel better, more relaxed, or happy.

A person with epilepsy needs to be aware that they are at a higher risk of serious health consequences from drinking alcohol or using certain drugs - especially “stimulant” drugs like amphetamines and cocaine.

Stimulants make those living with epilepsy susceptible to seizures, and alcohol withdrawal can do the same thing. Make wise choices!

How does a teenager with epilepsy establish their identity?

It is important, at all stages of life, to have friends who understand and support you. As a teenager, one is likely to make friendships that will last a lifetime.

However, as a teenager, feeling scared to discuss your epilepsy with friends becomes a normal - and no one is obliged to tell anyone anyway.

Nonetheless, as a teenager living with epilepsy, it is just to discuss what may happen to you if you have a seizure, and what people around you should do in case you have one.

Teenage years are a time of big changes. Struggling at times when figuring out the person you want to become as an adult is quite common among teenagers.

Having epilepsy may feel like an extra burden to bear, but it should not define you. You are not “an epileptic” — you are a young woman (who happens to have epilepsy) who can be successful and happy.

Work with your neurologist and other healthcare providers to keep your seizures under control.

- The writer is the National Epilepsy Coordination Committee (NECC) National Secretary (Kenya), and an Epilepsy Awareness ambassador

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