With the coronavirus continuing to spread across the world, it is totally understandable to feel worried about visiting medical centers. So, if you have an upcoming appointment with your epilepsy doctor, what can you expect?
An uncertain few months for people with epilepsy
The coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for everybody, but it has been especially hard if you have epilepsy. Research shows that people with epilepsy have had more seizures than usual in the last few months due to stress, poor sleep and other triggers.
Seeing your neurologist or epilepsy specialist is therefore going to be important to help manage seizures at this tough time. But is it safe during a pandemic?
No evidence of extra risk for people with epilepsy
At present, there is no evidence that having epilepsy puts you at a higher risk of getting Covid-19. Epilepsy on its own also does not appear to make Covid-19 symptoms worse.
People with epilepsy sometimes have ‘comorbidities’ (where you have other illnesses at the same time), and these could put you at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus. It is therefore worth calling your epilepsy doctor in advance of an appointment to discuss how comorbidities could affect you.
While everyone is unique, the following general tips can help with preparing for your next routine or first-time epilepsy appointment.
If you are having a routine appointment
If you have already been diagnosed with epilepsy and are simply planning to see your doctor for a routine appointment, you could:
- Do a telehealth meeting
Ask your doctor if it is possible to do a telehealth meeting where you call them up using a video call service like Skype, Zoom, Facetime or similar. Research during the pandemic has found this approach is often successful for epilepsy appointments.
- Use digital diary apps
Epsy is a great way of logging your seizures and the times you take medicine. You can then use the 'doctor's report' feature to share your insights, trends and data with your doctor - without needing to see them in person.
- Follow guidelines
Sometimes you will have to visit your epilepsy doctor in person. For instance, you might be having the battery changed in a medical device or need a blood test. If this is the case, call up your doctor to ask about their guidelines. You will likely need to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer when attending your appointment.
First seizure and early treatment appointments
If you recently had your first seizure and are going to meet an epilepsy doctor for the first time (or are visiting for a second or third appointment to get results and do additional tests) you might be feeling very anxious. To prepare, you could:
- Ask for information
Call up the treatment center for guidance on what to wear, how to prepare and ask about the hygiene practices that need to be followed. All hospitals will have very high hygiene standards, but it can give you peace of mind to ask these questions.
- Bring as much information as possible
At the beginning of your epilepsy treatment, it is often normal to bring along family or friends to appointments - they can provide you with support and give the doctor eye witness accounts of your seizures. But due to social distancing rules, you may not be allowed to bring them with you. In this case, ask friends or family to:
- Send you any videos of your seizures to show the doctor
- Pre-record a description of your seizures on their smartphones
- Make time to be available in case the doctor wants to call them up
Better than a visit to ER
It is totally understandable to be worried about visiting medical facilities during this pandemic. However, it is worth remembering that most epilepsy centers will be taking extra precautions to keep visitors safe. On top of this, if you miss appointments and find your seizures getting worse, you could end up in ER - where there will be more sick people and a higher chance of catching Covid-19 or other illnesses.
By taking the time to prepare, and speaking with your healthcare treatment team in advance of your appointment, you can continue to receive the best treatment without too much extra risk.