Epilepsy Explained

What Is Epilepsy

At the current time Epilepsy is defined as a tendency to have recurring seizures, which are also referred to fits. A  seizure is caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain, this causes a temporary disruption in the normal message passing between brain cells. This disruption results in the brain’s messages becoming halted or mixed up.

As the brain controls all the functions of the body, experiences during a seizure will depend on where in the brain the activity begins and how widely and rapidly it spreads. Because of this epilepsy is a very lonely condition as every sufferers experiences are unique to them. With its many forms and numerous types of seizures each individual will experience epilepsy differently.

So what causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy is grouped into two separate bands; the first is symptomatic epilepsy. This is where the cause is known and almost always involves some kind of trauma to the brain.

  • Brain damage caused through a difficult birth.
  • Suffering a stroke resulting in oxygen deprivation.
  • A severe blow to the head.
  • Infections e.g. meningitis.
  • Rarely the cause can be a brain tumour.

The second band; affecting 6 out 10 individuals, is called Idiopathic epilepsy. This is where the cause is unknown and this can leave individuals feeling a range of emotions from confusion to frustration, anger to depression.  Coupled under this banding is Cryptogenic epilepsy; this form of epilepsy has an unknown cause and current anti-convulsant medication has proved ineffective. It is sad fact that up to half of the individuals suffering from idiopathic epilepsy fall under this band.

In cases for which there is no known cause, recent evidence suggests there may be a genetic predisposition to developing the condition. (Source: Genes and Disease by the National Centre for Biotechnology)

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Unfortunately there are no conclusive test for epilepsy. Having said this CT (Computerized Tomography) scans, EEG's (Electroencephalogram), Sleep Deprivation tests and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, that either record particular brainwave patterns or images can provide evidence to aid doctors towards a diagnosis. Any attempt at a diagnosis should ALWAYS be made by an Epilepsy Specialists who will use their expertise in this area, alongside test results and patients or witnesses accounts to form an opinion.


Click here to go to the National Society for Epilepsy's information about Anti-Epileptic Drugs taken by adults.




Click here to go to the National Society for Epilepsy's information about Anti-Epileptic Drugs taken by children.