Dealing with epilepsy

Attention deficit, concentration and my epilepsy

I read today 1 in 5 adults with epilepsy also present ADHD (Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. Here’s the link to the article: Another article I read a while ago (sorry, but I don’t have a link) stated that attention deficit in people with epilepsy is an adverse effect of many anticonvulsants.

I guess this briefly explains my attention deficit problems, if I choose to believe them.

To explain:

In primary school, I was a straight A (10*) student. I had no problem learning, being attentive or memorizing stuff -> no problem concentrating at school.

In secondary school, let’s say, I was an B (7-8*) student, my attention being the same, but my interest slowly moving to other stuff (girls included :P) -> no problem concentrating.

At the end of secondary school, I had my first seizure and, a year later, I was diagnosed with epilepsy and started permanent drug treatment (Phenobarbital – as mentioned in my article last week: My attention and memory were still good, although I begun noticing some things –> no problem concentrating.

In high school, I had multiple seizures while still being under an increasing dose of Phenobarbital. My attention started to have some problems, although not important -> no problem concentrating. I was still a B student.

And here comes my higher education. During my Bachelor studies, I changed several treatments (from Phenobarbital to Carbamazepine and Topamax), but I was still somewhere in the top 10% of my class. My attention and memory seemed to get better for a while, but many more side effects appeared (fatigue, dizziness, headaches etc.) -> no problem concentrating.

For my PhD studies, attention and concentration were mandatory if I wanted to get the degree. In the end, it played out great (I can say now that I’m a doctor – in agriculture), but there were some important issues regarding my attention. For example, mistakenly, I did questionnaires in one more village than I scheduled. I forgot that I wrote that village out from my research -> real problems concentrating.

After I moved from Romania to Belgium in 2012 and changed my treatment again (three times), my memory and attention began having problems. I couldn’t focus enough on some things and my short-term memory began acting up. This didn’t happen all the time, but once in a while.

I discussed this with my neurologist and decided to monitor it a little longer to weigh in the pro’s and con’s. Other side effects disappeared under the latest treatment (Lamictal + Vimpat), but the short-term memory and attention issues are still an issue to be monitored.

In the end, my opinion is that the anticonvulsants are the ones which cause attention deficit problems, not necessarily having ADHD symptoms. I would like to see a study on ADHD and epilepsy, but without antiepileptics getting in the way.

P.S. * is the scale used in Romania: from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.