What is Epilepsy

Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders, with an estimated 1% of the general population being diagnosed. Epilepsy can present at any age but it is most common in childhood or in the later years of life. In more than half of those with epilepsy, seizures can be well controlled with anti-seizure medications.

Around 30% of patients diagnosed with epilepsy will continue to have seizures despite trials of at least two well-tolerated and well-selected anti-seizure medications. These patients are referred to as having drug-resistant epilepsies (DRE). Their quality of life tends to be affected not only by seizure severity and potential medication toxic side effects resulting in multiple admissions to the hospital but also by co-morbid conditions such as intellectual disability and mental health problems. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is more common in patients with long-standing, poorly controlled seizures. For more information regarding SUDEP, please visit SUDEP Aware.

An epileptic seizure: An epileptic seizure can present in many different ways. It is a transient event with different signs and/or symptoms caused by abnormal neuronal activity in the brain (Fisher et al., 2014).

Epilepsy: A disorder of the brain where there is an underlying predisposition to generate epileptic seizures. There are resulting conditions from epilepsy which include: cognitive, psychological, neurobiological and social consequences (Fisher et al., 2014).

Diagnosis: In order to be diagnosed with epilepsy, there must be at least one occurrence of a spontaneous epileptic seizure (when a clear risk factor for epilepsy is present – i.e., an abnormality in the structure of the brain) and in most cases, the occurrence of two spontaneous epileptic seizures more than twenty-four hours apart (even in the absence of other risk factors) is required (Fisher et al, 2014).

Classification of Seizures: There are three classifications of seizures which are: 1) Focal onset, 2) Generalized onset, and 3) Unknown onset. For more information on types of seizures please visit the International League Against Epilepsy website.