Epilepsy: Just The Facts
Epilepsy is where bursts of electrical activity happen in the brain, causing seizures.
A seizure happens when there’s a sudden burst of this intense electrical activity. This activity causes a temporary disruption to the way that the brain normally works.
Put simply, the brain’s messages become mixed up. How the body responds during a seizure all depends where in the brain the activity begins and how widely and quickly it spreads.
Seizures can be very scary, especially if you have never had one or seen one before. They typically don’t last very long, sometimes only a few seconds and the person having the seizure may not remember.
There are different types of seizure and different symptoms associated with these:
- Absence seizures: Lose awareness of surroundings and appear to stare blankly
- Myoclonic seizures: Body can twitch or jerk uncontrollably
- Atonic seizures: Body can relax suddenly or go limp
- Tonic Clonic seizures: Body goes through 2 stages:
-Stage one (Tonic); body goes stiff and may lose consciousness.
-Stage two (Clonic); body can make uncontrollable movements, such as jerking and seizing.
If you are epileptic, it’s important that the people around you know how to deal with your seizures and it can be helpful if they recognise your triggers or the early warning signs before a seizure happens. It’s also recommended that you wear a medical alert bracelet.
Even with a diagnosis of epilepsy, anyone having a seizure which lasts longer than 5 minutes needs an ambulance calling and immediate medical attention.
Not everyone will have the same triggers but some common ones include:
- A lack of sleep or waking suddenly
- Drinking alcohol
- Certain medicines and illegal drugs
- Flashing lights
- Menstruation in women
5 Epilepsy facts
- Not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy– Epilepsy can’t be diagnosed until you’ve had more than one seizure. There are other reasons why someone might have a seizure which can be explored by your GP.
- Diagnosing epilepsy requires specialist testing– To diagnose epilepsy, neurologists carry out tests such as EEG’s (electroencephalograms) which record brain wave patterns. It’s helpful to take along details of the seizures experienced and any recordings of them.
- There are many types of epilepsy- Some start in childhood, others in later life. Sometimes the reason for epilepsy developing is clear, for example a severe head injury or an infection to the brain, such as meningitis, sometimes it is less clear.
- Over 600,000 people in the UK have epilepsy- That’s about one in every 600 people.
- Epilepsy most commonly occurs before the age of 20 and after 45.
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Find help in your local area
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