Epilepsy Facts

  • Epilepsy is a common condition that affects approximately one in 103 people. It is usually diagnosed in childhood and in people over the age of 65, but it can affect any one.
  • There are two main types of seizure – generalised and focal. Generalised seizures involve large areas on both sides of the brain, whilst focal seizures affect a specific region.
  • what-is-epilepsy
  • Between 500 and 1,000 people with epilepsy die of SUDEP in the UK each year, usually whilst asleep/alone, and most of these deaths are thought to be caused by a severe convulsive seizure affecting vital functions such as breathing or heart rhythm.
  • Uncontrolled seizures can damage the developing brain and early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
  • Although for approximately 30% of epilepsy diagnoses, the cause of epilepsy is known (or strongly suspected and referred to as ‘symptomatic epilepsy’), in approximately 60% of cases the cause of epilepsy is not known, and it is then called ‘idiopathic epilepsy’.
  • Approximately two thirds of people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). However, unfortunately, most AEDs cause unwanted side effects, which can lower the quality of a person’s life considerably. Side effects can include weight gain, sleepiness, confusion, unsteadiness, lowered efficacy of the contraceptive pill and harm to an unborn baby.
  • A major side effect of epilepsy and AEDs is memory loss.
  • At least one in every eight people with epilepsy also has depression. Depression contributes to poor quality of life for people with epilepsy, and there is evidence that links depression with poor seizure control. Despite this, epilepsy services at all levels (GPs, hospitals and specialist consultants) rarely detect it. If a good method of identifying depression in epilepsy can be found, more people might benefit from being seizure free in the future.
  • Myth: There is only one type of seizure—a convulsion. The truth: In fact, there are more than 40 different types of seizures, and a convulsion is not the most common kind. Seizures can take many forms including a blank stare, involuntary movement, altered consciousness, a change in sensation or a convulsion.

** All facts taken from Epilepsy Research **

For advice on what to do when somebody has a seizure, check this out from Epilepsy Action.