What is epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain in which there is a tendency to have recurring seizures. The fact that seizures can reoccur is key, as a one off seizure does not mean it is epilepsy.
It can affect anyone, at any age, from any walk of life.
An epileptic seizure results from a sudden electrical discharge in the brain that causes changes in sensation, behaviour or consciousness.
Seizures can take many forms because the brain is responsible for such a wide range of functions. Seizure symptoms depend on where in the brain this abnormal burst of electrical activity happens. As a result, there are many different types of seizures - most usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes and usually stop without any treatment.
Epilepsy facts and stats
- Approximately 600,000 people in the UK have epilepsy which is equivalent to around 1 in 103 people.
- There are at least 40 different seizure types and people may have one or several different seizure types.
- Approximately 60% of people have tonic clonic seizures, 20% complex partial, 12% mixed tonic clonic and partial, 3% simple partial and less than 5% absence seizures, myoclonic seizures and other types.
- Around 3% of people with epilepsy are photosensitive, which means their seizures are brought on by flashing lights.
- The total number of children aged 4 years and under with epilepsy is approximately 1 in 509.
- The number of children and young people aged 18 years and under with epilepsy is near 1 in 220.
- The numbers of young people who are 25 years and under with epilepsy is around 112,000.
- More than one in five people with epilepsy have learning or intellectual disabilities.
- Misdiagnosis rates in the United Kingdom are between 20–31%.
- In the UK, 70% of the population with epilepsy could be seizure free with the right treatment. Currently only 52% of the population of people with epilepsy are seizure free.
Epilepsy related deaths
- In the UK 1,150 people died of epilepsy related causes in 2009. In England and Wales 10% or 11% of those deaths are young adults or children under the age of 25.
- Approximately 42% of the deaths per year are probably or potentially avoidable.
Source: Joint Epilepsy Council, Dec 2011