Understanding epilepsy Symptoms of epilepsy

There are about 40 different types of epilepsy, all with varying symptoms:
•Generalised tonic-clonic (previously called grand mal) - loss of consciousness; person falls down; body stiffens; starts to jerk uncontrollably, they may bite their tongue or be incontinent; may be sleepy or confused afterwards.
•Generalised absence (previously called petit mal) - brief loss of consciousness; doesn't fall down; usually no abnormal movements; appears as if they're daydreaming.
•Simple partial - person fully aware; abnormal twitching movement of part of the body, for example, head, eyes, hand or arm, or tingling sensation; may sense odd smells, sounds or tastes.
•Complex partial - person experiences odd tastes or smells or déjà-vu; dream-like state follows; during an attack, lip smacking, grimacing or fidgeting may occur; can be followed by generalised seizure.

Epilepsy - causes and risk factors

For six out of ten people with epilepsy, the underlying cause isn't clear. Epilepsy isn't a disease or mental illness, and it isn’t infectious.

Epilepsy may develop after damage or injury to the brain caused by:
•A stroke.
•A brain tumour.
•Scarring from a head injury.

Predisposition to seizures can run in families.

Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological disorder affecting people of all ages. One person in 50 will develop it at some time in their life.

Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any age, although it's more likely to start in early childhood and after the age of 65.

Epilepsy - treatment and recovery

It's not possible to prevent epilepsy from developing, but for those with the condition the chance of attacks can be reduced.

Avoid triggers such as alcohol, stress, strobe lighting and lack of sleep. Anti-epileptic medication can prevent seizures from recurring. Brain surgery is sometimes performed.

People with epilepsy must contact the DVLA to establish whether they're allowed to drive.

When doing activities such as swimming, people with epilepsy are encouraged to have someone with them who knows about their type of seizure and what to do if one occurs.