Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterised by seizures that occur repeatedly. A seizure is a brief alteration in the functioning of the brain caused by electrical activity bursts.
Epilepsy may develop at any age, although it most commonly starts during childhood or in people over 60.
Though it often lasts a lifetime, it may slowly improve with time.
Seizures can impact people in multiple ways, based on what part of their brain is affected.
These are possible signs:
- Uncontrollable trembling and jerking, often referred to as a “fit”.
- Losing consciousness and am staring mindlessly into space.
- Becoming stiff and/or collapsing.
- Unusual feelings, like a “rising” feeling in your stomach, unusual scents or tastes, and tingling in the arms or legs.
- Passing out and retaining no memory of what transpired.
In those with epilepsy, the brain’s electrical impulses are disrupted, and there can sometimes be unpleasant electrical activity bursts. This is the cause of seizures.
In most circumstances, it’s unclear why this happens. As one in three people with epilepsy has a family member who also has the condition, it could be possible that genetic factors could be contributing factors that affect how the brain works.
Sometimes, a brain injury could be from:
- A brain tumour (cancer).
- A stroke.
- A severe injury to the head.
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- An infection in the brain.
- A shortage of oxygen at birth.
Most patients with epilepsy can reduce or eliminate their seizures with treatment.
Treatment options include:
- The primary treatment is anti-epileptic medications.
- Surgery to remove a small portion of the brain that is causing the seizures.
- A procedure that involves implanting a tiny electrical device within the body that helps in seizure management.
- A particular diet (ketogenic diet) which helps with managing seizures.
- Some people require lifelong treatment. However, if the seizures cease, you might be able to discontinue treatment.
Living with epilepsy
Although epilepsy is typically a lifelong condition, most people with it can lead regular lives if the seizures are managed properly.
The majority of children with epilepsy can attend a regular school, engage in most extracurricular activities and sports, and eventually find jobs. However, you may need to consider your epilepsy before driving, doing certain tasks, swimming, using contraception, or planning to become pregnant.
It is recommended that you consult a doctor for help adjusting to life with epilepsy.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 06 May 2023