- What is epilepsy?
- What are seizures?
- What causes epilepsy?
- What happens during a seizure?
- Will I have epilepsy for life?
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is defined as a tendency to have epileptic seizures. Usually you won’t be diagnosed with epilepsy unless you have had more than one seizure.
There are loads of things you might feel when you have been told you have epilepsy. Here are some of them:
However it feels for you, it will probably take some time for you to get your head round it. You are likely to have lots of questions. Having some facts to hand, about epilepsy will hopefully help you start coming to terms with your diagnosis. You may feel like you are the only person in the world this is happening to. Not so. In the UK about 51,000 people under 17 have epilepsy.
What are seizures?
Our brains operate rather like computers. They control everything we do. Electrical activity is happening in our brain all the time. A seizure happens when there is a sudden and intense burst of this electrical activity. This interrupts the way the brain normally works and the brain’s messages become mixed up. It doesn’t hurt, but it causes our body to feel different or do strange things that we can’t control.
What causes epilepsy?
Here are some reasons why some people might have epilepsy:
- A brain injury or infection around the time you were born
- A brain tumour
- A major bang to your head
- A type of epilepsy that runs in families
- Some damage to your brain which has always been inside your head which is causing you to have seizures
For most people there’s no explanation why you have epilepsy.
What happens during a seizure?
Epilepsy is either generalised or focal.
Generalised means both halves or hemispheres of the brain are affected by the epileptic activity.
Focal means the epileptic activity starts in one particular place in the brain. It can then spread to affect both halves of the brain and become generalised.
There are loads of different types of seizures. Which type(s) you have sometimes depends on where the epileptic activity starts in your brain.
Will I have epilepsy for life?
Some people have a kind of epilepsy which means they have to take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) for the rest of their life. Other people have a type of epilepsy that they might grow out of. If this is you, your doctor or specialist nurse may suggest gradually taking smaller doses of your AEDs in a controlled way.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank epilepsy specialist nurses Roz Atkinson, Janine Winterbottom and Carmel McGinn of Cardiff, Liverpool and County Fermanagh for their valuable contributions to this information.