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what is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different 'epilepsies' with one thing in common: 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. Other conditions that can look like epilepsy include fainting, or very low blood sugar in some people being treated for diabetes. On this page, when we use the term 'seizure' we mean epileptic seizure.

Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life. It happens in people of all ages, races and social classes. Epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in children and in people over 65. There are over half a million people with epilepsy in the UK, so around 1 in 100 people.

Causes of epilepsy

The causes of different epilepsies can be complex and sometimes hard to identify, but may include a genetic tendency, a structural change in the brain, or a combination of both.

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.

Coming to terms with your epilepsy

You might be feeling lots of different emotions right now. People can react differently to a diagnosis. It may not be possible to think and feel positively. 

Diagnosing epilepsy

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

All about epilepsy

All about epilepsy is a programme that explains epilepsy, how it is diagnosed, what seizures look like and how you can help someone who is having a seizure. 

What is epilepsy?

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