Epilepsy Information provided by the Epilepesy Ireland Research team
What is Epilepsy?
The word epilepsy generally refers to any condition of the brain which can cause recurrent unprovoked seizures.
There are many different types of epilepsy, and causes of epilepsy are varied and not often well understood. There are acquired (e.g., significant head injury) and genetic (or familial) factors which can pre-dispose people to the development of epilepsy. Many of these factors are under active investigation by the epilepsy research community.
Epilepsy can begin at any age, including later life, and can affect both sexes equally, and can also affect a person from any walk of life.
Seizures may be of various types, and do not always involve loss of consciousness and falling to the ground in a typical “grand mal” attack, i.e., seizures may be subtle and may manifest as an unusual body sensation, or brief bland staring without falling. The way the seizure manifests itself depends on where the seizure starts in the brain, and the degree and rapidity of spread within the brain.
Epilepsy is treated by identifying the type of epilepsy an individual has, and then addressing lifestyle factors which may contribute to provocation of seizures.
The mainstay of medical treatment is with anti-epileptic drugs suitable for the individual. Many antiepileptic drugs are available and it is important that treatment be individualised, as people can respond to these drugs in very different ways.
At diagnosis, one antiepileptic drug is initiated; if the individual does not respond to this, either because of continuing seizures or because of unacceptable side effects, then another antiepileptic drug may be tried in place of the first drug.
About two thirds of people respond well to therapy. The other one third have more difficult epilepsy, and often require more than one drug, and also may need evaluation for other types of treatment such as epilepsy brain surgery.
The reasons why people respond poorly to drug therapy, and the development of various new treatments for epilepsy are active areas of research worldwide, including here in Ireland.
Video: 10 Truths about Epilepsy