The Epilepsies

The epilepsies are a group of conditions caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which gives rise to epileptic seizures.

These can be of different types. Some common ones are:

  • Absences: staring into space, not able to be distracted, may be associated with fumbling or lip smacking. Sometimes described as though someone has switched the pause button, stares for seconds then suddenly back again.
  • Myoclonic: sudden jumps or jerks.
  • Tonic: stiffening of body and limbs.
  • Tonic-clinic: stiffening of body and limbs then jerking of body and limbs.
  • Atonic or drop attacks: sudden loss of muscle tone and falls to the ground, may injure self in so doing.

Seizures can be:

  • Focal, coming from one part of the brain and affecting part of the body.
  • Generalised, coming from all over the brain and affecting consciousness and all of the body.

Epilepsy is not:

  • Catching
  • A mental illness
  • Something to be frightened about, as long as you have a plan made with your doctor and nurse about what to do and how to best manage.

If you suspect epilepsy, see the doctor as soon as possible.

If a first seizure is lasting more than five minutes, call 999 for a paramedic ambulance.

See our resources section for more information on epilepsy and examples of seizure diaries.