General Epilepsy

LIVING WITH EPILEPSY
PREVENTING & MANAGING EPILEPSY

What is Epilepsy?

A neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

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?

A neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

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 a Seizure?

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. To find out more, please read our What kind of seizures are there? section.

Seizures are divided into two main categories:

Focal Seizure (Partial Seizures)

  • Involve both hemispheres of the brain

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

Generalised Seizure

  • Involve both hemispheres of the brain

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

What is a Seizure?

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:

Focal Seizure (Partial Seizures)

  • Involve both hemispheres of the brain

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

Generalised Seizure

  • Involve both hemispheres of the brain

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

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 any time from any walk of life. Living with Epilepsy.

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 any time from any walk of life. Living with Epilepsy.

Why do People have Seizures?

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.

What Do I Do if Someone Is Having a Seizure?

What is Epilepsy? Image of a person's brain having complex partial seizures

How Does Someone Get Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is NOT contagious – you can’t catch it, and you can’t give it to someone else. So, what causes epilepsy?

A lot of the time it’s not known why someone has it – this is called idiopathic epilepsy. However, in other cases, factors like genetics can play a part. When the cause is known it is called secondary or symptomatic epilepsy, and this can result from brain injuries, stroke, infections, and certain genetic syndromes.

Do People Have Seizures Forever?

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.

What’s the Difference Between Seizures and Epilepsy?

A seizure is the brief disruption in normal brain activity that interferes with brain function. Anyone can potentially have a seizure and it doesn’t automatically mean that they have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder associated with an increased susceptibility to seizures.

Can Someone Swallow Their Tongue During a Seizure?

No, it’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue. It’s actually much more harmful to put something in someone’s mouth to prevent this because it could cause oral injuries. Instead, you should gently roll someone onto their side once their seizure has finished to ensure that their airway is clear.

How Does Someone Get Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is NOT contagious – you can’t catch it, and you can’t give it to someone else. S0, what causes epilepsy?

A lot of the time it’s not known why someone has it – this is called idiopathic epilepsy. However, in other cases, factors like genetics can play a part. When the cause is known it is called secondary or symptomatic epilepsy, and this can result from brain injuries, stroke, infections, and certain genetic syndromes.

Do People Have Seizures Forever?

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.

What’s the Difference Between Seizures and Epilepsy?

A seizure is the brief disruption in normal brain activity that interferes with brain function. Anyone can potentially have a seizure and it doesn’t automatically mean that they have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder associated with an increased susceptibility to seizures.

Can Someone Swallow Their Tongue During a Seizure?

No, it’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue. It’s actually much more harmful to put something in someone’s mouth to prevent this because it could cause oral injuries. Instead, you should gently roll someone onto their side once their seizure has finished to ensure that their airway is clear.

Is Epilepsy Contagious?

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

Possible Causes:
  • Genetic Conditions
  • Developmental Disorder
  • Brain / Head Injuries
  • Drug / Alcohol Abuse
  • Metabolic Conditions
  • Birth Injury
  • Brain Tumour / Stroke
  • Infections

Is Epilepsy Contagious?

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

Possible Causes:
  • Genetic Conditions
  • Developmental Disorder
  • Brain / Head Injuries
  • Drug / Alcohol Abuse
  • Metabolic Conditions
  • Birth Injury
  • Brain Tumour / Stroke
  • Infections

Do People Get a Warning Before a Seizure?

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

Aura

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.

Prodrome

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.

What is an Aura?

Aura is the term used to describe symptoms that may occur before a seizure.
An aura may include:
  • Visual changes

    Examples include:

    • Bright lights
    • Zigzag lines
    • Slowly spreading spots
    • Distortions in the size or shape of objects
    • Blind or dark spots in the field of vision
Aura is the term used to describe symptoms before a seizure including bright lights
What is an aura? Hallucinations can be part of the symptoms leading up to an epileptic episode.
  • Hearing voices or sounds (auditory hallucinations)
  • Strange smells (olfactory hallucinations)
  • Feelings of numbness or tingling on one side of your face or body
  • Feeling separated from your body

  • Anxiety or fear
  • Nausea

An aura is often the first sign that you are going to have a seizure. You may have an aura from several seconds up to 60 minutes before a seizure. Most people who have auras have the same type of aura every time they have a seizure.

What is an Aura?

Aura is the term used to describe symptoms that may occur before a seizure.

An aura may include:
  • Visual changes

    Examples include:

    • Bright lights
    • Zigzag lines
    • Slowly spreading spots
    • Distortions in the size or shape of objects
    • Blind or dark spots in the field of vision
Aura is the term used to describe symptoms before a seizure including bright lights
What is an aura? Hallucinations can be part of the symptoms leading up to an epileptic episode.
  • Hearing voices or sounds (auditory hallucinations)
  • Strange smells (olfactory hallucinations)
  • Feelings of numbness or tingling on one side of your face or body
  • Feeling separated from your body

  • Anxiety or fear
  • Nausea

An aura is often the first sign that you are going to have a seizure. You may have an aura from several seconds up to 60 minutes before a seizure. Most people who have auras have the same type of aura every time they have a seizure.

If I Have a Seizure Does That Mean I Have Epilepsy?

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

What is SUDEP? (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy)

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is the term used when a person with epilepsy dies without warning and where the post-mortem fails to establish any other cause of death.

The person with epilepsy is often found dead in bed and doesn’t appear to have had a convulsive seizure. They are often found lying face down. No one is sure about the cause of death in SUDEP. The use of anti suffocation pillows can reduce the risk of SUDEP.

What is Epilepticus?

Status epilepticus is a seizure that lasts 30 minutes or more, or when seizures repeat without recovery.

This can be life threatening is a medical emergency. If someone has
been having a seizure for more than 5 minutes, or a second seizure begins before the person has fully recovered from a previous one, need to call 999.

What is an Epileptologist?

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

They are not necessary for the treatment of all seizure disorders, and is generally only consulted if seizures do not stop, despite treatment from a regular physician or neurologist

Is There Any Danger of a Person Dying During a Seizure?

A seizure is seldom a cause of death, but it can happen.

There is a chance of accidental death if someone has a seizure in water, or near heights, or while driving a car. Occasionally, a person may fall in such a way that breathing is blocked, or may suffer a heart attack as a result of the stress of the seizure.

In rare cases, breathing may not start again when a convulsive seizure is over, in which case artificial respiration should be given.

Death may also occur as a result of a series of non-stop seizures that may last for hours if not treated in a hospital. People suffering more than one convulsive seizure in a short period should also receive immediate medical care.

Young adults with hard-to-control seizures may be at higher risk of sudden, unexplained death. This rare but troubling phenomenon is not yet well understood.

LIVING WITH EPILEPSY
PREVENTING & MANAGING EPILEPSY

HELP CHANGE LIVES TODAY

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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