HEALTH INFORMATION
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About Epilepsy

Electrical activity is happening in our brain all the time. A seizure happens when there is a sudden burst of intense electrical activity in the brain. This is often referred to as epileptic activity. The epileptic activity causes a temporary disruption to the way the brain normally works, so the brain’s messages become mixed up. The brain is responsible for all the functions of your body. What happens to you during a seizure will depend on where in your brain the epileptic activity begins, and how widely and quickly it spreads. For this reason, there are many different types of seizures, and each person will experience epilepsy in a way that is unique to them

Causes of Epilepsy

There are many types of epilepsy. Some types start when you are very young, and some in later life. Some types last for a short time and other types can last for the whole of your life.
Sometimes the reason epilepsy develops is clear. It could be because of brain damage caused by a difficult birth, a severe blow to the head, a stroke, or an infection of the brain such as meningitis. Very occasionally the cause is a brain tumour. In around six out of ten (60%) people, doctors don’t know the cause of epilepsy. For many of these people, it is just part of how they are made that makes them more likely to have a seizure.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

There isn’t a test that can prove that you do or you don’t have epilepsy. Tests such as the electroencephalogram (EEG) – which records brainwave patterns – and MRI of the brain can give doctors useful information. A diagnosis of epilepsy should be made by a doctor with specialist training in epilepsy.

To make a diagnosis, an epilepsy specialist will use their expert knowledge and look at the information from different tests. They will ask you what happens before, during and after your seizures. They might also want to speak to someone who has seen your seizures.

Epilepsy is currently defined as the tendency to have recurrent seizures. It is unusual to be diagnosed with epilepsy after only one seizure. Around five people in every 100 will have an epileptic seizure at some time in their life. Out of these five people, around four will go on to develop epilepsy.

Treatment of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is usually treated with epilepsy medicines. You may also hear these referred to as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Epilepsy medicines act on the brain, trying to reduce seizures or stop seizures from happening. Lots of people with epilepsy find that when they have the right medicine, they have fewer or no seizures. 70 per cent (seven out of ten) of people with epilepsy could be seizure free with the right treatment.

First aid for seizure:

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Tonic-Clonic seizures

The person goes stiff, loses consciousness and then falls to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. A blue tinge around the mouth is likely. This is due to irregular breathing. Loss of bladder and/or bowel control may happen. After a minute or two the jerking movements should stop and consciousness may slowly return.

Focal (partial) seizures

Sometimes the person may not be aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may pluck at their clothes, smack their lips, swallow repeatedly, and wander around

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Do…

  • Protect the person from injury (remove harmful objects from nearby)
  • Cushion their head
  • Aid breathing by gently placing them in the recovery position** once the seizure has finished
  • Stay with the person until recovery is complete

Don’t…

  • Restrain the person’s movements
  • Put anything in the person’s mouth
  • Try to move them unless they are in danger
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered
  • Attempt to bring them round

Call for an ambulance if…

  • It is the person’s first seizure, or
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes, or
  • One seizure follows another without the person regaining consciousness between seizures
  • The person is injured during the seizure
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