Epilepsy has been defined as a tendency to have recurrent seizures, sometimes referred to as ‘fits’. Seizures happen when the chemical imbalance in the brain is upset and there is abnormal firing of the nerve cells. It’s like an electronic storm in your brain. There are many forms of seizure. During a mild seizure you might lose awareness of where you are and what’s going on around you. In a severe seizure, you may lose consciousness. The word ‘epilepsy’ comes from the Greek ‘epi lambano’ meaning ‘a taking hold of’ – hence the word seizure.

Types of Seizure
Everybody can have an epileptic seizure. One in 20 people have a seizure at some time in their lives. Some forms of epilepsy have recurrent seizures, this happens because the individual has a ‘low seizure threshold’. There are many types of epilepsy. In some people the epilepsy is due to a constitutional or genetic (inherited) liability. In others it may be congenital (caused by problems before birth). Epilepsy can also be caused by damage to a localised area of the brain by injury, trauma, infection or tumour. In this situation the epilepsy is referred to as Symptomatic Epilepsy. For many people though there is no cause, this is sometimes referred to as Idiopathic or Primary epilepsy.

There are many types of seizure. Figure 1 summarises the types of seizure, their characteristics, the after effects and how people can help.