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Epilepsy

 

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a group of conditions that have epileptic seizures as a symptom. Although the correct term is ‘the epilepsies', more often it is known simply as ‘epilepsy'.


Epilepsy is a neurological condition where there is a tendency for people to have repeated seizures that start in the brain. Anyone can develop epilepsy and although it can start at any age, it is more common in children and people over 65.
 

Symptoms of Epilepsy

The symptom of epilepsy is epileptic seizures.


An epileptic seizure is a sudden, short-lived event that causes a change in a person's awareness of where they are, what they are doing, their behaviour or their feelings.

 

There are many different types of epileptic seizure.

Seizures are divided into partial (or focal) seizures and generalised seizures.


Partial seizures affect just part of the brain. What happens depends on which part of the brain the seizure affects, and what that part of the brain does. In simple partial seizures the person is aware and alert, and will usually know that something is happening.

 

These seizures can include an unusual smell or taste, a ‘rising' feeling in the stomach, or stiffness or twitching in part of the body (such as the arm or hand). In complex partial seizures the person's consciousness is affected, they are confused, and afterwards may not remember the seizure. They may be able to hear you, but may not understand or be able to respond to you. These seizures can include fiddling with clothing, making lip-smacking movements, muttering, or wandering around in a confused way.


Generalised seizure affects the whole of the brain. The person becomes unconscious and will not remember the seizure. These seizures include absences and tonic clonic seizures. In absences, the person becomes blank and unresponsive for a few seconds and will not respond to what is happening around them. In tonic clonic seizures the person goes stiff, falls down (if standing) and shakes (convulses). Their breathing may be affected and they may become very pale, and they may wet themselves. After the convulsions stop their breathing usually goes back to normal. Afterwards they are often very tired, confused and may want to sleep.


Most seizures happen without warning and stop by themselves. Although injuries can happen, most people do not hurt themselves and do not need any medical help..

 

Causes:

Epilepsy is the symptom of an underlying cause but the reasons why some people develop it are not straightforward.
 

There are many possible causes and the cause is not always found. Epilepsy can be the result of a genetic tendency towards seizures (called ‘idiopathic epilepsy'), or as a result of a known cause such as a head injury or infection (called ‘symptomatic epilepsy').
 

Treatment:

Up to 70% of people with epilepsy could be seizure-free with the right anti-epileptic drug (‘AEDs') treatment. Currently only around 52% are seizure free.


For people who do not respond to AEDs, there are other treatment options, such as epilepsy surgery or vagus nerve stimulation, but these are not suitable for everyone.
 

 

 

Group

TBC

Short Description

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Web Address

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Contact Details

TBC

 

Group

Epilepsy Action

Web Address

www.epilepsy.org.uk

Contact Details

0808 800 5050

Incidence and Prevalence


Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological condition in the UK.


Around 456,000 people in the UK have epilepsy – that is 1 in 131 people. 1 in 242 children under 18 years of age, and 1 in 91 adults aged 65 and over has epilepsy.

 

Around 75 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the UK.

 

Epilepsy is thought to affect around 50 million people worldwide.
 

Impact on Health & Social Care
 

The affect of epilepsy is very individual. For some, whose seizures are fully controlled, it may have little impact on their life. For others, whose epilepsy is not controlled, it may have a far-reaching impact, including on work, driving, relationships, overall health, mental wellbeing and social and leisure activities. Some people with epilepsy and co-existing conditions or disabilities need supported or residential care.


Epilepsy is normally managed by neurologists ( a doctor specialising in conditions of the brain) or a neurologist with a specialism in epilepsy. Children usually have their epilepsy managed by a paediatrician until around 17 years of age.


Other specialists involved in the epilepsy management include: learning disability specialists, epilepsy specialist nurses, psychologist or psychiatrist, and occupational health and social services teams.


There are NICE clinical guidelines for epilepsy: ‘ The diagnosis and management of the epilepsies in adults and children in primary and secondary care'.


      

Group

Epilepsy Society

Web Address

www.epilepsysociety.org.uk

Contact Details

01494 601400

Group

David Lewis Centre For Epilepsy

Web Address

www.davidlewis.org.uk

Contact Details

01565 640000

Group

NCYPE (National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy)

Web Address

www.ncype.org.uk

Contact Details

01342 832243

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