Epilepsy is many things. Most people, when they hear the word, have just one picture in their mind – the ‘tonic-clonic’ seizure where the person with epilepsy falls to the floor convulsing. Not all epileptic seizures are like this but the tonic-clonic seizure is often used in TV dramas because it’s dramatic in itself and ‘useful’ because it requires no dialogue to explain it.
An epileptic seizure is the result of a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain. This causes the brain’s messages to become temporarily halted or mixed up.
There are more than 40 different types of seizure, ranging from brief absent moments, to episodes of losing consciousness, falling to the floor and convulsing.
Epilepsy can start at any age and for many different reasons. Sometimes a cause can be found and sometimes it will always remain a mystery. Causes of epilepsy include:
• Head injuries
• Difficulties at birth
• Childhood infections.
Epilepsy can be difficult to diagnose and there are a number of tests that are used to help with diagnosis, such as an EEG (electroencephalogram) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
The condition is usually treated with medication called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDS), in a bid to stop the seizure happening – but they don’t cure epilepsy.
With the right AEDs, up to 70% of people with epilepsy could have their seizures controlled or stopped. Surgery may be an option for those whose seizures continue.
Some famous people who have had epilepsy include: Julius Caesar, Vincent Van Gogh and, more recently, actor Danny Glover, publicist Max Clifford and rugby player Dean Ryan.
You might like to know that St. Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy.
USEFUL LINKS ABOUT EPILEPSY
Epilepsy Research UK
LOCALLY BASED CHARITIES
Epilepsy Here (East Kent)
Brainwave (The Irish Epilepsy Association)