What is epilepsy | About epilepsy

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.

Treatment gap

  • 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

Cyber EssentialsFundraising RegulatorYoung Epilepsy is the operating name of The National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy Charitable Trust.
Registered Charity number 311877 (England and Wales)

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