Seizures, epileptic fit

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain condition which causes frequent and recurrent seizures.

Seizures are bursts of electrical disturbance in the brain, which affect the signals sent to the body.

What causes epilepsy?

Epileptic seizures affect everyone differently, and can be triggered by many factors, including stress, lack of sleep and exhaustion, waking up, alcohol, some medication, missing meals, monthly periods and flashing lights.

It is not known what causes epilepsy, but it is believed it could be partly caused by genes affecting how the brain works.

Occasionally, it can be caused by damage to the brain, as a result of:

  • Stroke
  • Brain tumour
  • Brain infection
  • Serious head injuries
  • Lack of oxygen during birth
  • Drug abuse or alcohol misuse

What are the symptoms of epilepsy?

Typically, a seizure may last from a few seconds to a few minutes. There are many different types of seizure, depending on which part of the brain is affected. These include:

  • Simple partial/focal seizures: where the person remains awake and aware and experience strange sensations, feelings, smells, tastes, tingling and stiffness
  • Complex partial/focal seizures: where the person loses awareness and make random body movements such as smacking the lips and rubbing the hands
  • Tonic, clonic and tonic-clonic seizures: during the tonic stage, the person loses consciousness, goes stiff and may fall to the floor. During the clonic stage their limbs jerk, they may bite their tongue or cheek, lose control of their bladder or bowel and have difficulty breathing
  • Absense seizures: where the person loses awareness of their surroundings & may stare into space or flutter their eyes
  • Myclonic seizures: a very brief seizure where the body suddenly twitches or jerks like an electric shock
  • Atonic seizures: these cause all the muscles to relax, so the person may fall to the ground
  • Status epilepticus: the name for any seizure which lasts a long time, or a series of seizures where the the person does not regain consciousness in between. This is a medical emergency and 999 should be called.

Are you affected by epilepsy?

If you’re affected by epilepsy, The Brain Charity can support you.

We are the only charity in the UK to be here for every one of the more than 600 different neurological conditions in existence. Individually, many are rare, but combined, they affect 1 in 6 people.

We provide practical help on all aspects of living with epilepsy, emotional support such as counselling, phone befriending and group therapy and social activities to people with epilepsy from all over the UK from our centre in Liverpool.

Medical treatment – including medication and surgery – can help most people reduce or stop their seizures.

Another important factor in controlling and limiting seizures is understanding when they occur. A good idea would be to keep a log so that you can understand patterns, such as lack of sleep.

Looking to talk to someone?

Woman smiling, making eye contact and holding the hand of another woman to comfort her

Phone us

Contact The Brain Charity now

Our friendly Information & Advice Officers are here to help. We endeavour to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

0151 298 2999

Looking to talk to someone?

  • Please tell us which neurological condition you are affected by and what you need support with.

Caring for someone affected by Epilepsy

As a carer, one of the most important things you can do to help is make sure the person affected is safe during a seizure. Only move them if they’re in danger, cushion their head if they’re on the ground and loosen any tight clothing around their neck to aid breathing. Put them in the recovery position when the convulsions stop, and stay with them and talk to them calmly until they recover.

We support carers, friends and family too

Are you a carer for or relative of someone with epilepsy? It’s just as important for you to look after your own physical and mental wellbeing too.

The Brain Charity provides free support for carers, friends and family of people with any form of neurological condition, including epilepsy, from anywhere in the UK.

We also run an additional carers advocacy service for all carers in Liverpool, regardless of which type of condition the person they care for has.

You don’t need to be a formal or registered carer

We can help you even if you don’t view yourself as a formal carer or claim Carer’s Allowance. Find out some of the ways we support carers below.

Other resources

The Brain Charity's library

The Brain Charity's library has a range of resources on epilepsy and on a wide range of other disability-related issues.

Support groups

Other charities

Epilepsy Action

Helpline: 0808 800 5050
Website: www.epilepsy.org.uk

Epilepsy Society

Helpline: 01494 601400
Website: www.epilepsysociety.org.uk

David Lewis Centre For Epilepsy

Phone: 01565 640000
Website: www.davidlewis.org.uk

Mersey Regional Epilepsy Association

Helpline: 0151 298 2666
Website: www.epilepsymersey.org.uk

SUDEP Action (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy)

Phone: 01235 772850
Website: www.sudep.org

Young Epilepsy

Website: www.youngepilepsy.org.uk

Young Epilepsy has partnered with Shout to offer free, confidential, 24/7 text support to young people and families living with epilepsy. To start a conversation, text ‘PURPLE’ to 85258.

The Daisy Garland - for children with drug-resistant epilepsy