What is epilepsy?

A neurological disorder, epilepsy is a chronic condition that primarily affects the body’s central nervous system. In epilepsy sufferers, nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted by a surge of impulses which results in brief changes in behaviour, bodily movements, awareness and feeling (sensations). The result of these changes is recurrent, unprovoked seizures1 (also referred to as 'fits'). These episodes may result in confusion, lack of awareness and even loss of consciousness.

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, while others may convulse and lose consiousness.

Seizures are classified into two main types:

  1. Generalised seizures (affecting the whole brain)
  2. 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 (i.e seizures without obvious triggers) within a 24-hour period.

As a disorder, epilepsy is a fairly common condition around the world, affecting around 50 million people across the globe2. It is common amongst children and adults, slightly more so in males than females.



1.Stafstrom C, Carmant L. Seizures and Epilepsy: An Overview for Neuroscientists. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2015;5(6):a022426-a022426. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a022426
2. Epilepsy. Who.int. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/epilepsy#:~:targetText=Epilepsy%20accounts%20for%20a%20significant%20proportion%20of%20the%20world's%20disease,and%2010%20per%201000%20people. Published 2019. Accessed November 11, 2019.

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