Epilepsy Questions and Answers2020-12-01T08:37:03+00:00

Epilepsy Questions and Answers

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What is epilepsy?2020-11-23T10:32:48+00:00

Epilepsy is a common neurological disease characterised by the tendency to have recurrent seizures.
It is sometimes called a seizure disorder.

A person has epilepsy if they:

    • Have had at least two unprovoked seizures, or

    • Have had one seizure and are very likely to have another, or

    • Are diagnosed with an epilepsy syndrome

    what is epilepsy
    What is a seizure?2020-11-17T19:05:21+00:00

    A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain that causes a temporary disturbance in the way brain cells communicate with each other.

    The kind of seizure a person has depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected by the electrical disturbance that produces the seizure. A seizure may take many different forms, including a blank stare, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, or convulsions. Seizures are typically brief and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

    Seizures are divided into two main categories:
    What is a seizure?
    Generalised Seizure
    • Involve both hemispheres of the brain

    • Two common types are absence seizures (petit mal seizures) and tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures)

    Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures)
    • Only involve one part of the brain

    • Include focal impaired awareness seizures (complex partial seizures) and focal aware seizures (simple partial seizures)

    Why do people have seizures?2020-11-20T07:45:30+00:00
    Why do people have seizures

    There are many potential reasons why someone could have a seizure. Some seizures are a symptom of an acute condition, such as an illness or a recent head injury. Some people will have an isolated seizure for no apparent reason and never have another one.

    When someone has epilepsy, they have an underlying brain condition that makes them more likely to have recurrent seizures. There are a wide range of causes of epilepsy.

    Do people get a warning before a seizure?2021-02-06T15:31:12+00:00

    Sometimes people can feel a seizure coming on. However, warnings are not experienced by everyone with epilepsy.


    Some people have an aura at the very beginning of a focal seizure or a generalised seizure. Technically, an aura doesn’t happen “before” the seizure, because it is actually part of the seizure. Some examples of auras are a sudden feeling of fear, an odd smell or taste, or a sudden tingling sensation in part of the body.

    An aura can also occur by itself. For example, if the seizure activity causing the aura does not spread to other brain areas, then the seizure may not progress to a loss of awareness or loss of consciousness.


    Another type of warning, called a prodrome, can occur minutes, hours, or days before the seizure begins. Some examples are headache, mood changes, or changes in thinking abilities.


    Do people get a warning before a seizure
    How is epilepsy diagnosed?2020-11-21T12:42:31+00:00
    How is Epilepsy Diagnosed

    Epilepsy is diagnosed by a physician or nurse practitioner. The healthcare professional will complete a medical history, asking questions about the seizure, such as what happened before, during, and after it.

    The person will have an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a test that records brain waves picked up by metal discs (electrodes) placed on the scalp. The brain waves show patterns of brain activity which may help the doctor identify epilepsy and provide more information about any seizures a person may have.

    CT or MRI brain scans may also be helpful in some patients to look for differences in brain structure, scars, or other physical conditions that may be causing the seizures. Based on all of the information gathered, the healthcare provider may diagnose the person with epilepsy.

    How is epilepsy treated?2020-11-21T13:33:58+00:00

    There are many things a provider and person with epilepsy can do to stop or lessen seizures.

    The most common treatments for epilepsy are:

    Anti-seizure drugs are medicines that limit the spread of seizures in the brain. A health care provider will change the amount of the medicine or prescribe a new drug if needed to find the best treatment plan. Medicines work for about 2 in 3 people with epilepsy.

    epilepsy meds treatment
    epilepsy surgery treatment

    When seizures come from a single area of the brain (focal seizures), surgery to remove that area may stop future seizures or make them easier to control with medicine. Epilepsy surgery is mostly used when the seizure focus is located in the temporal lobe of the brain.


    When medicines do not work and surgery is not possible, other treatments can help. These include vagus nerve stimulation, where an electrical device is placed, or implanted, under the skin on the upper chest to send signals to a large nerve in the neck.

    Another option is the ketogenic diet, a high fat, low carbohydrate diet with limited calories.

    epilepsy vns treatment
    keto diet epilepsy
    Do people have seizures forever?2021-02-06T15:31:39+00:00

    Some types of epilepsy are limited to a certain age group or stage of development, but in many cases epilepsy is a chronic, life-long disease.

    There are treatment options to help people achieve seizure-freedom. Medication will be effective for many people. Some people are good candidates for epilepsy surgery.

    Do people have seizures forever?
    If I have a seizure, does that mean I have epilepsy?2020-12-05T17:46:04+00:00
    epilepsy alcohol withdrawal

    It’s not always epileptic seizures. Seizures can also happen because of other medical problems.

    These problems include:

    • A high fever

    • Low blood sugar

    • Alcohol or drug withdrawal

    I have not had a seizure for years. Do I still have epilepsy?2020-11-18T07:42:51+00:00

    If someone is taking anti-seizure medication to control their seizures, they are considered to have active epilepsy.

    The International League Against Epilepsy considers epilepsy to be resolved for individuals with an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome who are past the applicable age or if the individual has been seizure-free for 10 years and off medication for at least the last five years.

    Do I still have epilepsy? International League against epilepsy
    How common is epilepsy?2020-11-20T07:51:49+00:00
    How Common is Epilepsy?

    Epilepsy is the most common, serious neurological disorder worldwide.

    More than half a million people in the UK have epilepsy, which equates to 1 in 100 people. 

    Epilepsy can affect anyone, of any age, race, or sex, at anytime from any walk of life.

    What causes epilepsy?2020-11-18T08:44:37+00:00

    Epilepsy is NOT contagious – you can’t catch it, and you can’t give it to someone else. In more than half of cases, no clear known cause can be found.

    Some types of epilepsy are associated with genetic factors. Among the rest, anything that affects the way the brain works could increase the chance of developing epilepsy.

    What Causes Epilepsy?

    What triggers epilepsy?2020-11-21T12:49:59+00:00

    Triggers vary from person to person.  

    Some people with epilepsy are able to very clearly identify situations that trigger a seizure, while others are unable to find a pattern to their seizures.

    A common way to identify seizure triggers is to keep a seizure record that includes tracking what happens before each seizure.

    What triggers epilepsy
    Can person with epilepsy drive?2020-11-20T08:46:39+00:00
    Can person with epilepsy drive

    A person with epilepsy is usually eligible for a driver’s licence if they have been seizure-free (on or off medication) for the past one year, have no side effects of medication that would impair driving and are under regular medical supervision.

    Why is it important to take anti-epileptic drugs regularly?2020-11-20T08:47:17+00:00

    The aim of taking anti-epileptic drugs is to obtain adequate control of fits.

    It is very important to maintain a constant level of the drugs in the brain to control seizures. In order to achieve that, a constant level of the drug in the blood is required.

    It is therefore, very important to take medicines regularly.

    anti-epileptic drugs
    Does epilepsy affect a person’s emotional well-being?2020-11-20T08:47:56+00:00
    Epilepsy Emotional Well-being

    It is normal for a person who has been diagnosed with epilepsy to experience a range of emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, and sadness. Concern for the future and negative responses from friends and family can leave a person feeling vulnerable and alone.

    Living with epilepsy can result in personal challenges, but it does not have to result in an inability to live a rewarding and full life.

    People with epilepsy experience depression and anxiety more frequently than individuals without epilepsy. Research hasn’t yet determined why this happens to a person’s epilepsy emotional well-being, but there may be some common links between the underlying causes of these  brain disorders.

    Can you die from epilepsy?2020-11-19T09:16:33+00:00

    The vast majority of people with epilepsy live long and healthy lives. As with many other medical conditions though, for some people there is an increased risk of dying caused by epilepsy.

    The possible causes of this increased risk include:
    • More serious health problems, such as a stroke or a tumor. These conditions carry an increased risk of death and may cause seizures.
    • Falls or other injuries that happen because of seizures. These injuries can be life-threatening.
    • Seizures that last over 5 minutes. This is a condition called status epilepticus. Status epilepticus can sometimes happen when a person suddenly stops taking seizure medication.
    • The underlying medical cause of someone’s epilepsy
    • SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). SUDEP is thought to happen when a person with epilepsy, who is in their usual state of health, dies unexpectedly.
    Can you die from epilepsy?
    What do I do if someone is having a seizure?2020-11-19T09:29:02+00:00
    When should an ambulance be called?2020-11-20T08:51:09+00:00
    • A convulsive (shaking) seizure lasts more than five minutes

    • One convulsive seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness in between
    • The person has injured themselves during a seizure or is having difficulty breathing when the seizure has finished
    • The person has three convulsive seizures in an hour
    • If you have concerns about the person’s condition
    When should an ambulance be called
    How can I support other people with epilepsy?2020-11-20T08:51:16+00:00
    Epilepsy Support

    One of the easiest ways to show your support is to talk about epilepsy. One of the most difficult challenges that people with epilepsy face is the stigma associated with the condition.

    By spreading awareness and educating others, you can provide epilepsy support and help erase the misconceptions that exist about epilepsy.

    You can also support the services provided by your local epilepsy agency by becoming a volunteer or donor, or running a fundraiser.

    I just had a seizure for the first time. What do I do?2020-11-19T14:46:48+00:00

    About 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime. Having your first time seizure can be a frightening experience for the individual and others involved. Knowing what to do can help. First time seizures need to be evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine if the episode was a seizure and to investigate the cause.

    Do not drive until you speak with a physician and get information about your medical fitness to safely operate a motor vehicle.

    A healthcare provider will ask what you remember about the episode. What happened before it began and at the onset? What do you recall about the seizure? If there are parts that you do not remember, a witness may be able to fill-in other details such as how long the seizure lasted, what it looked like and what happened when it ended.

    Make sure to ask questions regarding anything you are concerned about before leaving the emergency room or clinic.

    Some possible questions are:
    • Can the cause be determined?

    • What is my seizure plan if a second seizure occurs?

    • What sorts of safety precautions should I take?

    You may need to have some diagnostic tests and a follow-up appointment with your family doctor or a neurologist. Ask if there is a first seizure clinic in your region.

    First time seizure
    What is an epileptologist?2021-02-06T15:29:41+00:00
    What is an epileptologist?

    An epileptologist is a neurologist who has additional training and certification in the diagnosis and management of patients with epilepsy.

    I am taking an anti-seizure medication but I am continuing to have seizures. What do I do?2020-11-19T14:56:59+00:00

    Nearly 50% of people with epilepsy will become seizure-free with the first anti-seizure medication that is tried. If you do not become seizure-free with the first medication, or if it causes intolerable side-effects, the next step is usually to try a different anti-seizure drug. Your healthcare provider will select the most appropriate drug to try based on the type of seizures you have, other features of your epilepsy disorder, your age, your gender, as well as considerations such as cost and whether you have drug insurance.

    Most people with epilepsy will become seizure-free on the second anti-seizure medication they try. If you do not become seizure-free with your second medication, speak to your consultant about booking a consultation at a district or regional epilepsy centre. An assessment of your epilepsy will be carried out followed by other treatment options.

    Anti-seizure medication
    What can I do to manage my epilepsy?2020-11-20T07:07:13+00:00
    Epilepsy Management

    Self-management is what you do to take care of yourself. You can learn epilepsy management and keep an active and full life.

    Begin with these tips:
    • Take your medicine
    • Talk with your doctor or nurse when you have questions
    • Recognize seizure triggers (such as flashing or bright lights)
    • Keep a record of your seizures

    • Get enough sleep

    • Lower stress

    Have more questions about epilepsy?



    Few people are actually willing to step up and talk about Epilepsy. We need to make the world aware of the impact Epilepsy has on so many and find a cure. Without a cure, there are far too many people who will never have relief from seizures.

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