Epilepsy is a neurological condition where an abnormal electrical activity happens in the brain causing seizures – also known as fits. What people experience during a seizure depends on where the epileptic activity takes place in the brain.
About one in 20 people with epilepsy will be affected by flashing lights and most will not be affected negatively by using a computer screen.
What is epilepsy?
There are two types of epileptic seizures – partial and generalised; often referred to as ‘petit mal’ and ‘grand mal.’
In simple terms, with partial seizures the person will remain conscious and may report such things as changes in the way things look, feel, taste, smell or sound, feelings of déjà vu, tingling in arms or legs.
In a more complex partial seizure, a person will be unaware of what is happening and will not be able to remember afterwards. They may display behaviour such as: rubbing hands or moving arms around, making random noises, short periods of loss of concentration or ‘absences.’ In a generalised seizure, a person will suddenly become completely unconscious, experiencing physical seizures for a sustained period of a few minutes, and be subsequently unaware of events following recovery afterwards.
Impact of epilepsy
- In the majority of cases, epilepsy can be controlled by medication
- Diagnosis will normally lead to an individual’s driving licence being withdrawn
- People may be nervous going out in public in case they have a seizure, or experience significant lack of self-confidence
- Side effects of medication can include tiredness, confusion or in some cases the appearance of being drunk.
Recruiting people with epilepsy
- There are not normally any significant adjustments required as part of the recruitment – it is more about understanding the condition
- Epilepsy may cause a loss of confidence in the individual, which may mask their abilities
- The individual may choose to discuss the history of their condition, so don’t be afraid to ask about adjustments to the recruitment process.
Supporting staff who have epilepsy
- In most cases epilepsy is controlled by medication; some may be controlled well enough to hold a driving licence
- Find out if the employee gets a warning about an imminent seizure, if they are able to tell anyone and what actions should be taken to ensure their safety
- Ensure that a first aider is appointed who is trained in supporting people with epilepsy
- If the epilepsy has caused the employee to lose their driving licence consider asking Access to Work for support with travel to work
- Access to Work can help assess the workplace for advice on things such as a suitable computer screen or filters for lights
- Some employees may need to take medication at set times so adjust working patterns to accommodate.
Useful information about epilepsy
You might need to make some adjustments to help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.
Take a look at our case studies to see how we have transformed the lives of disabled people.
Epilepsy Action improve the lives of everyone affected by epilepsy.
Epilepsy Society is the UK’s leading provider of epilepsy services. They deliver cutting edge research, awareness campaigns, information resources and expert care for everyone affected by epilepsy in the UK.
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