Focus On With Dr. Sadek: COVID-19 and Epilepsy

Dr. Sadek discusses if there are any increased risks of contracting the coronavirus.

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The novel coronavirus has been at the forefront of our minds for the past few months, and many people with chronic conditions, such as epilepsy, are concerned about how their health may affect their risk for contracting COVID-19.Thankfully, since epilepsy is not a disease that alone weakens the immune system, there is no known evidence to suggest that having epilepsy either increases the risk of contracting COVID-19 or increases the severity of the disease. In rare cases, some people with epilepsy take medications that weaken the immune system (for example, steroids, ACTH, everolimus, and immunotherapies), but use of these medications is quite rare and is limited to specific cases.

If a person with epilepsy develops COVID-19 or any similar viral illness, it is possible to see an increase in seizures as the illness can contribute to physical and mental stress on the body. While available data suggests the risk of seizure is low with COVID-19, prevention is still our best tool. It is recommended to maintain key precautionary measures as described by the CDC, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask in public, frequent hand washing, and avoiding those who have had a known exposure to the virus.

This time is quite stressful, and it has been studied that chronic stress can have a negative impact on both seizures and the immune system. While changes to our daily lives are inevitable during these times, try to maintain a routine and build in relaxing activities like being outdoors, walking, and mindfulness. Connect with others via phone and video calls to maintain proper social support.

It is now more important than ever to maintain a good relationship with your epilepsy provider, especially if you have concerns about an increase in seizures. Many offices are now employing “telehealth” as a key strategy to continue providing care for patients while maintaining physical distance. Most visits can be done quickly and simply through the use of a smart phone or computer from your own home. Many insurance providers are relaxing restrictions during this time to allow for telehealth visits and removing barriers that make it easier to ensure quicker access to medications. Consider using this time to meet with your epilepsy care provider to ensure adequate supply of medications, formulate a “seizure action plan” that can help avoid unnecessary ER visits, and discuss concerns about stress and seizures.

Dr. Ahmed Sadek | Orlando Epilepsy  Center, Inc.

Dr. Sadek is the Director of Orlando Epilepsy Center. He is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Florida Shands, Gainesville. Dr. Sadek is triple Board certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, and Epilepsy.


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