What is epilepsy?

A neurological disorder, epilepsy is a chronic condition which primarily affects the body’s central nervous system. Nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted and results in occurrences of unusual behaviour and sensations, unprovoked and recurrent seizures (also known as ‘fits’ - caused by a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain), confusion, lack of awareness and even loss of consciousness.

With epilepsy the brain’s electrical system experiences a surge of impulses which results in brief changes in behaviour, bodily movements, awareness and feeling (sensations). The result of these changes is seizures.

Symptoms of seizures vary, affecting different individuals in various ways. Some may experience repetitive twitching movements during a seizure. Others may stare blankly for short periods of time.

Seizures are classified into two main types – Generalised seizures (affecting the whole brain) and partial or focal seizures (affecting one part of the brain).

Whether mild (lasting a few seconds with no recollection) or severe (accompanied by spasms and uncontrolled muscle movements and twitches lasting up to a few minutes), all symptoms and experience variations of seizures require medical treatment in order to control them. Dangerous situations can arise if seizures are not medically controlled.

A medical doctor will likely diagnose epilepsy if it is found that a person has experienced 2 or more unprovoked seizures (without obvious triggers) within a 24-hour period.

As a disorder, epilepsy is a fairly common condition around the world, affecting millions across the globe. It is common amongst children and adults, slightly more so in males than females.

NEXT How does epilepsy affect the brain and nervous system?

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