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Guide by Condition: Epilepsy

Posted by Mike Phipps on December 10, 2018

Understanding and living with Epilepsy

Guide by Condition: Epilepsy

Epilepsy affects around 1 in every 100 people in the UK and can be diagnosed at any age. There are treatments, medication and specialist aids which can help someone living with epilepsy to stay safe and reduce symptoms.

What is epilepsy?

A common condition that can affect people of any age, epilepsy affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. The seizures are caused by electrical bursts of energy in the brain, which temporarily affect how it works and cause a wide range of symptoms. Epilepsy usually starts in childhood or after the age of 60 and is a lifelong condition; however, in some cases,  it can slowly get better over time.

Symptoms of epilepsy can usually include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking/fits
  • Losing awareness of surroundings and staring into space
  • Becoming stiff
  • Tingling feeling in arms and legs
  • Collapsing

What causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy occurs when the electrical signals in the brain become mixed up, leading to sudden bursts which causes the seizures. However, it’s not entirely known what causes epilepsy. In most cases, it can be genetic, as one in three people with epilepsy have a family member who also has it. In some cases, epilepsy can be caused by damage to the brain, such as a stroke, a brain tumour or infection, a severe head injury, a lack of oxygen at birth or drug and alcohol misuse.

Living with epilepsy & treatment

Many individuals living with epilepsy can manage well if their seizures are controlled with medication. However, depending on the severity of the seizures, epilepsy may need to be considered when doing activities like swimming or driving, and certain jobs. If you have had a seizure for the first time, it’s important to visit your GP to find out why it happened. Call for an ambulance if someone is having a seizure for the first time, has a seizure lasting longer than five minutes, has lots of seizures in a row or has difficulty breathing.

Treatment for epilepsy

The most common treatment for epilepsy is anti-epileptic medication, which can be used to reduce the number of seizures or stop them completely. For more severe seizures, there is also the option to have surgery to remove a small part of the brain which is causing the seizures, or a procedure to place a small electric device inside the body to help control the seizures. Additionally, a special diet can help to reduce and control the seizures.

Monitors and alarms are ideal for individuals living with epilepsy, as they can be used to alert people in other rooms of the seizure and call for help. Additionally, fall mats are ideal for if the individual collapses during a seizure and helps to prevent any injuries caused by the fall.

More information

  • Epilepsy Action -
  • Epilepsy Research UK -
  • Young Epilepsy -