Epilepsy: the basics

Don’t know anything about epilepsy? These quick questions and answers are a great place to start!


What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent seizures.

This means that someone with epilepsy has had at least one seizure and is likely to have more.

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What is a seizure?

Electrical activity is happening in our brains all the time. A seizure is an intense burst of this electrical activity. This epileptic activity causes the brain’s messages to become mixed up.

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Who gets epilepsy?

Epilepsy can affect anyone, at any age and from any walk of life.

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How common is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the most serious common neurological condition.

One in 103 people in the UK have epilepsy – that’s around 600,000 people.

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What causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy can be caused by brain damage, genetics, head injury, stroke, brain infections, or a brain tumour. Some people have epilepsy as part of a syndrome.

However, six out of 10 people with epilepsy never find out what caused their condition.

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How is epilepsy treated?

The most common way that epilepsy is treated is with epilepsy medicines. They don’t cure epilepsy, but instead try to stop seizures from happening.

Other treatment includes brain surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, deep brain stimulation and the ketogenic diet.

Seven in 10 people with epilepsy could become seizure-free with the right treatment. However, only five in 10 people with epilepsy in the UK are seizure-free.

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Can epilepsy be fatal?

About 1,000 people a year die as a direct result of their epilepsy. That’s one in every 600 people with epilepsy. Find out more about death in epilepsy.


Find out more by visiting our advice and information.