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Find below all the answers to your questions on epilepsy and more

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a long-term brain condition where a person has repeated convulsions or seizures ( fainting fits). A seizure is usually defined as a sudden alteration of behavior due to a temporary change in the electrical activity of the brain. Normally, the brain continuously generates tiny electrical impulses in an orderly pattern. These impulses travel along neurons—the network of cells in the brain—and throughout the whole body via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. In epilepsy, the brain’s electrical rhythms have a tendency to become excessive, resulting in recurrent seizures. In patients with epilepsy, the normal electrical pattern is disrupted by sudden, excessive, and synchronized bursts of electrical energy that may briefly affect their consciousness, movements or sensations. Having just one seizure is not considered to be epilepsy—about half the people who have one seizure never have another seizure.

What causes epilepsy?

The cause of epilepsy is unknown in half of all cases. We know that genetics (family history) play an important role. Anything that harms the brain can cause seizures or epilepsy, such as:

head injury or trauma

stroke or brain haemorrhage (bleed)

brain infection or inflammation, like meningitis, cerebral malaria, encephalitis or a brain abscess

brain malformations or tumours

Damage to a baby’s brain during delivery or maternal infections during pregnancy.

brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease

chronic alcohol or drug use

Complications of HIV/AIDS

But, seizures may not develop for years after the damage to the brain happens.

Anyone who has a brain and is exposed to anything that can damage the brain can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy is not caused by witchcraft, generational curses or being possessed by evil spirits.

What are the symptoms of epilepsy?

The symptom of epilepsy is seizures (fits). These are episodes of changed electrical activity in the brain and can vary a lot depending on the part of the brain involved. Seizures can cause symptoms like loss of consciousness (passing out), unusual jerking or shaking movements as well as other unusual feelings, sensations and behaviours. There are many different types of seizures. Generalised seizures involve the whole brain and so the whole body is affected. Focal seizures involve only part of the brain.