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what is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common serious neurological condition where there is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. Epilepsy is usually only diagnosed after a person has had more than one seizure.
Not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Seizures can happen for many different reasons, such as diabetes or a heart condition. Here, when we use the term 'seizure' we mean epileptic seizure.

More than half a million people in the UK have epilepsy. This is around 1 in 100 people. Anyone can develop epilepsy, it happens in all ages, races and social classes. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children and people over 65.

There are over 40 types of epilepsy, so just knowing that a person ‘has epilepsy’ does not tell you very much about their epilepsy and the type of seizures they have.

Causes of epilepsy

Epilepsy has many possible causes. Because of its complexity, the underlying cause of someone’s epilepsy may not be found. Causes of epilepsy can be put into three main groups: symptomatic, idiopathic and cryptogenic epilepsy.

Facts about epilepsy

Here's a list of interesting facts and statistics about epilepsy.

Risks with epilepsy

In the UK there are around 1,200 deaths related to epilepsy a year. Some of these deaths are caused by complications during or after a seizure.

What is SUDEP?

Sometimes a person with epilepsy dies during or following a seizure for no obvious reason. This Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is uncommon and in some cases may be preventable.

Epilepsy care pathway

Our text version of the epilepsy care pathway demonstrates the care process you can expect after your first seizure.

Diagnosing epilepsy

To diagnose epilepsy, doctors gather lots of different information to assess the causes of seizures.

What is epilepsy?

If you or someone you know has epilepsy, you may find it helpful to learn more. This leaflet gives some basic facts about epilepsy, and points out where you can get more detailed information and help. 

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