What is epilepsy?
Burnetts’ Medical Negligence and Serious Injury Team are taking part in Purple day to raise awareness of epilepsy on the 26th
March. Purple Day is the international day for Epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. Seizures are described as bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how the brain works. A seizure disrupts the electrical communication between neurons and can cause a wide range of symptoms.
Epilepsy is often a lifelong condition but can slowly get better over time and with the correct medication.
Living with epileptic seizures can affect a person’s education, employment, independence, relationships and can often lead to isolation and anxiety.
Following an Acquired or Traumatic Brain Injury there can be an increased risk of epilepsy with most medical experts suggesting that the risks reduce over time towards similar levels of risk as experienced by the general population.
Did you know?
- Epilepsy is derived from the Greek word ‘ˈɛpɪlɛpsi’ meaning ‘to be seized.’
- Almost 1 in 100 people have epilepsy.
- Epilepsy can start at any age but usually starts either in childhood or those aged over 60.
- Around 1 in 3 people with epilepsy have a family member with it.
- It is estimated that epilepsy affects around 65 million people in the world.
- Epilepsy affects around 600,000 people in the UK.
- Around 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy every day.
- Around 1000 people a year lose their life due to epilepsy.
Seizures can affect people in many different ways depending on which part of the brain is involved. The most common symptoms include:
- Losing awareness and staring blankly into space
- Becoming stiff
- Experiencing strange sensations such as unusual smells, tingling in arms and legs
- Passing out
Someone is said to have epilepsy if they experience two or more unprovoked seizures separated by at least 24 hours, or after one seizure with a high risk of more occurring.
It therefore becomes very important to document when you or your loved one has experienced a seizure in order to confirm a diagnosis. If you have a video of the seizures that could also be very helpful in order to confirm a diagnosis.
When seizures appear to result from abnormal activity in just one area of your brain they are called Focal (partial) Seizures. These seizures can then be placed into two categories.
- Focal seizures without loss of consciousness. These seizures don’t cause a loss of consciousness. They may alter emotions or change the way things look, smell, feel, taste or sound. They may also result in involuntary jerking of a body part such as an arm or a leg and spontaneous memory symptoms such as tingling, dizziness and flashing lights.
- Focal impaired awareness seizures (FIAS) (previously called complex partial seizures). These seizures affect a bigger part of one hemisphere (side) of the brain than focal aware seizures. They involve a change or loss of consciousness or awareness. During this seizure, you may stare into space and not respond normally to your environment or perform repetitive movements such as hand rubbing, chewing, swallowing or walking in circles.
These seizures appear to involve all areas of the brain. Six types of these exist.
- Absence seizures often referred to as “absences” – they often occur in children and are characterised by staring into space or subtle body movements such as eye blinking or lip smacking. These seizures may occur in clusters and cause a brief loss of awareness.
- Tonic seizures – they cause stiffening of the muscles and mainly affect muscles in the back, arms, and legs and can cause you to fall to the ground.
- Atonic seizures – they cause a loss of muscle control, which may cause you to suddenly collapse or fall down.
- Clonic seizures - these are associated with repeated or rhythmic, jerking muscle movements. These seizures usually affect the neck, face and arms.
- Myoclonic seizures - usually appear as sudden brief jerks or twitches of your arms and legs.
- Tonic-clonic seizures - the most dramatic type of epileptic seizure and can cause an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking, and sometimes loss of bladder control or biting your tongue.
In most cases it is unclear why epilepsy occurs. Occasionally, epilepsy can be caused by damage to the brain occurring from:
- A stroke
- A brain tumour
- A severe brain injury
- A brain infection
- A lack of oxygen during birth
- Drug abuse or alcohol misuse
Fortunately, treatment is available which can help those suffering with epilepsy with these treatments. The correct treatment can potentially result in someone having fewer seizures or completely stop them all together.
- Medicines called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
- Surgery to remove a small part of the brain that's causing the seizures
- A procedure to put a small electrical device inside the body that can help control seizures
- A special diet (ketogenic diet) that can help control seizures
- Avoiding any seizure triggers
How Burnetts Can Help
Epilepsy is often caused by reasons unbeknown to those that suffer from the condition. However, epilepsy may also be caused by a difficult birth, a severe blow to the head, a stroke or a brain infection. In these instances, a sufferer may pursue a civil legal action due to the criminal act, negligence or medical negligence of another.
Our specialist Medical Negligence and Serious Injury team works collaboratively alongside the best accredited experts and barristers in this field. Burnetts solicitors are committed to providing high quality, accessible legal advice, whilst always ensuring client’s expectations and aims are met with a grounded, accessible, professional service.
If the claim is on behalf of a protected party then our Court of Protection team will also be on hand to assist with the administration of compensation and navigating you through the entire deputyship process.
If you would like to speak to someone within our MNSI team to discuss whether you may have a serious injury or clinical negligence claim then please contact our offices on 01228 552222.
There are a number of great resources available from the various Epilepsy charities in the UK including the Epilepsy Society and Epilepsy Action. This includes videos showing the different types of seizure to assist with diagnosis and awareness available on you tube or available here.
10 February 2020 - International Epilepsy Awareness Day
26 March 2020 - Purple Day
Further Campaign information here