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of everyone affected by epilepsy


Introduction to seizures

Epilepsy is not a single condition. Sometimes you might hear people talk about ‘the epilepsies’. This is because there are many different types of epilepsy. Epilepsy can start at different times for different people. And the different types of epilepsy can produce different signs and symptoms.

To keep things simple, in this information we talk about epilepsy, rather than the epilepsies.

Having epilepsy always means that you have a tendency to have epileptic seizures. It is not necessarily a life-long diagnosis. And doctors may consider that you no longer have epilepsy if you go without seizures for a long enough time.

Epilepsy Action has more information about the definition of epilepsy.

The information in these web pages gives a brief explanation of the most common types of epileptic seizures.


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 result is an epileptic seizure.

How seizures affect you depends on the area of your brain affected by the epileptic activity. For example, some people lose consciousness during a seizure but other people don’t. Some people have strange sensations, or parts of their body might twitch or jerk. Other people fall to the floor and convulse. This is when they jerk violently as their muscles tighten and relax repeatedly.

Seizures usually last between a few seconds and several minutes. After a seizure, the person’s brain and body will usually return to normal.

Some people only ever have seizures when they are awake. Other people only ever have them when they are asleep. Some people have a mixture of both.

Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy and sleep

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Helpline by email at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk

Pay it forward

This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.

On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you

We can provide references and information on the source material we use to write our epilepsy advice and information pages. Please contact our Epilepsy Helpline by email at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk.

Epilepsy Action wishes to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, Glasgow, UK for reviewing this information. 

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated July 2014
    To be reviewed July 2017

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours


Hi i have been epileptic since a kid without knowing it. I had couple seizures as a kid then they stopped till about 2/3 yrs ago but i suffered really bad migraines inbetween. The last seizures almost killed me i had 4 seizures in 1 ( if that makes sense to anyone ) and needed to be injected with adrenalin to bring me round. They have no idea cause and i have no warning is anyone else like this? Beginning to make me scared of using kettle or cooker

Submitted by martin on

Hi Martin

I can understand you feeling scared after your last seizures. We have got information on our website about ways of keeping yourself as safe as possible. You might find them useful. You can find these under safety and also under daily living aids, which includes things like alarms. I do hope things start feeling easier for you soon.

Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Cherry-Epilepsy... on