What Is Epilepsy?

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can cause seizures, typically characterised by 2 or more unprovoked seizures. It’s important to note that not all seizures are epileptic. There are many reasons why someone can have a non-epileptic seizure.

It's inside us all

Epileptic seizures are caused by a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. We all have electrical activity constantly going on in our brains and it’s completely normal. But when a surge of electrical activity happens, there is a temporary disruption in how the brain normally operates. This causes an epileptic seizure.

Classed as chronic illness, epilepsy is usually with you for life. But with anti-epileptic drugs and certain lifestyle choices to control seizures, many people live full lives despite an epilepsy diagnosis.


Are all epileptic seizures the same?

In short, no.

There are so many different types of seizures and everyone has their own individual experience of epilepsy. This can range from seizures lasting seconds up to a few minutes. This might not seem long, but they can be exhausting for the person experiencing a seizure.

Epileptic seizures are very diverse to say the least, there are many different seizures someone can experience;

  • Focal seizures (partial seizures)
  • Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures)
  • Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)
  • Myoclonic seizures (myoclonic jerks)
  • Tonic seizures
  • Atonic seizures (drop attacks)

I’m no expert on all of these different types of seizures because I only live with tonic clonic seizures. For more information on the various types of seizures, I suggest you read Epilepsy Action’s seizures explained page.


Who can develop epilepsy?

Anyone can develop epilepsy and the WHO names it as one of the most common neurological diseases globally. So it’s no surprise that epilepsy impacts around 600,000 people in the UK alone. And with around 87 people diagnosed in the UK every day, I’m personally not expecting this figure to drop.*

Epilepsy does not discriminate by age, race, gender, class or any other categories we might fit into. It’s one of the world’s oldest known illnesses, yet around half of all epilepsy diagnoses have no known cause. It really surprised me to learn that written recordings of epileptic seizures date back to 4000BC! Surely this means we have to be somewhat close to a cure?!


How do I help someone who is having an epileptic seizure?

As I mentioned earlier there are SO MANY different types of epilepsy. Meaning there is no way you can possibly know how to respond to each one and what support each individual needs.

Yet in general, it can be relatively simple to help someone who is having a seizure. The Epilepsy Society summed this up well with their “Calm, Cushion, Call” campaign that was released for National Epilepsy week 2019.

Epilepsy first aid, Calm, Cushion, Call. #seizuresavvy

If you follow the Calm, Cushion, Call guidance you will be able to keep the person suffering a seizure safe. So make sure you remember to;

1) Remain calm

2) Cushion an individual’s head with something soft

3) Call an ambulance if the seizure lasts over 5 minutes,

Based on personal experience, I would recommend staying with someone until they are clear-headed again. Waking up confused and scared is a terrible experience, so having someone there to support you can make a huge difference.


*Epilepsy Action

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