What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures ,which are also known as fits. Epilepsy tends to begin during childhood ,but can start at any age.(NHS choices . 2014.)

Why do I have Epilepsy?

The cause of epilepsy can happen for many different reasons ,although the main reason is usually a result if some kind of brain damage.

This could be caused by :

  • a difficult birth

  • a stroke

  • an infection of the brain such as meningitis

  • or severe blow to the head

Signs & Symptoms...

People who suffer with epilepsy can experience a variety of seizures. Seizures can occur when you are awake or asleep. Theses seizures are classified by how much of your brain is affected.

  • Partial seizures- which is where only a small part of the brain is affected

  • Generalised seizures - is where most or all of the brain is affected.

Partial Seizures

There are two types of partial seizures :

  • simple

  • complex

Simple partial seizures are where you remain fully conscious throughout the seizure,whereas complex partial seizures are where you can’t remember what happened after the seizure has passed,losing your sense of awareness.

Symptoms of simple partial seizures:

  • a strong feeling that the events have happened before (this is called déjà vu)

  • having changes in the way things look,smell,taste,sound or even feel

  • a sudden intense emotion,such as joy or fear

  • a tingling sensation ,or having ‘pins and needles’ in your arms or legs

  • muscles in your arms legs and face may have become stiff ,struggling to have movement

  • Also you may experience twitching on one side of you body

Symptoms of complex partial seizures:

These symptoms can normally involve you doing and having strange and random bodily behaviour such as:

  • rubbing your hands

  • making random noises

  • moving your arms around

  • smacking your lips

  • fiddling with objects

  • chewing or swallowing

  • sitting ,laying or standing in an unusual posture

Whilst experiencing an complex partial seizure,you would not be able to respond to anyone and you will also have no memory of the event . This seizure is very common with people who have epilepsy.NHS choices.(2014).

Diagnosing Epilepsy...

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause symptoms similar to epilepsy,this can make it difficult to diagnose. So, an epilepsy specialist doctor (epidemiologists ) will make a diagnosis based mainly on your symptoms.It is important to see your local GP or doctor if you are experiencing any of the sign & symptoms or if your not sure exactly.

Tests used in the diagnoses of Epilepsy .

A doctor or an epilepsy specialist may arrange some tests for you to have at a hospital. These tests include:

  • EEG tests- measures the electrical activity that is happening in your brain

  • CT scan- is a type of X-ray that shows the physical structure of the brain.

  • MRI scan- uses radio waves and a magnetic field to show the physical structure

None of these tests can prove that you have epilepsy or not ,although they can give useful information such as the cause of your epilepsy and the type of seizures of which you are having.Also if a person has a seizure its important to record the information before the seizure,during and after this can help with the diagnosis ,there are other things that can help to explain why a seizures has happened. Your medical history and any other medical conditions will also be considered as part of your diagnosis. Sometimes the cause of someone’s epilepsy can be found. For example,Some inherited conditions, (passed from parent to child) such as tuberous sclerosis, can cause epilepsy.

Around 1 in every 4 people with epilepsy has a learning disabilities.

Side effects to seizure medicines:

Most common side effects that may occur in the first few weeks of taking seizure medicines are:

  • dizziness

  • drowsiness

  • upset stomappetite or weight gain

  • blurred vision

  • ach or sickness

  • increased

Can seizure medicines cause allergic reactions?

Allergic reactions to the medicines are very rare, but if they do occur contact your doctor immediately. The most common type of allergic reaction is a rash .

Should I see a doctor immediately for other side effects or symptoms?

It is important to tell a doctor immediately if you are having experience of any of the following :

  • blisters on the skin

  • sores,blisters ,or ulcers in your mouth

  • fever

  • stomach pain and tenderness

  • excessive bleeding or bleeding which won't stop

  • unusual infections

  • and also any other unusual symptoms while taking a seizure medicine

Epilepsy foundation- Authored by Steven C. Schachter, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN | Joseph I. Sirven, MD.(2013).

Conditions similar to Epilepsy...

Having a seizure doesn't necessarily mean you have epilepsy. Many conditions have symptoms similar to epilepsy.

  • First seizures- a first seizure is a one-time event that can be brought on by a drug or even anaesthesia

  • Febrile seizures -these seizures occur when a child has a high fever,and there's a low chance it develops into epilepsy

  • Nonepileptic Events- these look like seizures but actually they are not. Nonepileptic events may be caused by conditions such as:Narcolepsy (a sleep disorder) ,Tourette's syndrome and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

Diagnosing Epilepsy can take a long time because symptoms of seizures may be linked to another medical condition /disorder ,many tests would have to take place to insure the right diagnosis and treatment is given to a patient .WebMD -Jon Glass.( 2012.)

Difficulties with diagnosing Epilepsy...

If you have learning difficulties it can be difficult to have a diagnosis,Sometimes repeated behaviours, or movement disorders can be mistaken for seizures.Also communication difficulties will prevent them being able to explain what is happening to them.

Lack of Activity at the time of an EEG test will show a clear result and not measure what activity has happened or will again happen so this can lead to a misleading diagnosis. Many other conditions can cause seizures that are not epileptic so all these need to be ruled out hence making a diagnosis difficult and sometimes a long process Conditions that also can cause people to have a seizure are Febrile Seizures (due to high fever),Narcolepsy,Tourette’s Syndrome, Eclampsia, Meningitis, Encephalitis(inflammation of the brain) or simple Migraines.

First Aid Steps.

  1. Stay calm.

  2. Look around - is the person in a dangerous place? If not, don't move them. Move objects like furniture away from them.

  3. Note the time the seizure starts.

  4. Stay with them. If they don't collapse but seem blank or confused, gently guide them away from any danger. Speak quietly and calmly.

  5. Cushion their head with something soft if they have collapsed to the ground.

  6. Don't hold them down.

  7. Don't put anything in their mouth.

  8. Check the time again. If a convulsive (shaking) seizure doesn't stop after 5 minutes, call for an ambulance (dial 999).

  9. After the seizure has stopped, put them into the recovery position and check that their breathing is returning to normal. Gently check their mouth to see that nothing is blocking their airway such as food or false teeth. If their breathing sounds difficult after the seizure has stopped, call for an ambulance.

  10. Stay with them until they are fully recovered

Epilepsy society.(2012).


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