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What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a general term used for a group of disorders that result in disturbances in electrical signalling in the brain. Epilepsy has been defined as the tendency to have recurrent seizures, also known as fits. Seizures are caused by a rapid surge of excess electrical activity in the brain, which leads to a temporary disruption in the normal messages being passed between the brain cells. This disturbance leads to the messages in the brain becoming mixed up. Each person with Epilepsy will experience different symptoms during a seizure dependent on where in the brain the epileptic activity started; the speed of it and also the areas it spreads to.

Anyone can develop Epilepsy. There are many potential causes of Epilepsy, but the exact cause is not always known. The causes of Epilepsy can be categorised into three main groups:

  • Idiopathic (primary) epilepsy
  • This type is likely to be due to a genetic predisposition, that may have been inherited from one or both parents
  • Symptomatic (Secondary) epilepsy
  • This is where there is a known cause for the epilepsy e.g. brain injury, stroke, meningitis, difficulty during birth
  • Cryptogenic Epilepsy
  • This type is when the cause in unknown

There are different types of seizures which individuals with Epilepsy may present with. Seizures can be classified by the location in the brain where the epileptic activity starts.

The two main types of seizures include:

  • Focal (partial) seizures - is where the epileptic activity starts in just a part of the brain. During focal seizures the individual may be alert and may not be aware of what is happening to them. The individual may have uncontrollable movements, sensations or feelings. Others may not be aware that he individual is having a seizure. Focal seizure may be very brief or last for several minutes. Sometimes focal seizures can lead to generalised seizures.
  • Generalised seizures - generalised seizures involves epileptic activity across both h