What is epilepsy?

accreditation
Image: Thinkstock
Image: Thinkstock

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects one out of every 100 people in South Africa.

It’s a chronic seizure disorder and its most obvious symptom is unprovoked seizures – in other words, seizures that have no known cause, such as extremely low blood sugar, according to the US Epilepsy Foundation.

These seizures are often described as “electrical storms in the brain” and can affect anyone. The seizures can vary in type and intensity – from serious convulsions and a loss of consciousness, to brief periods of “blanking out”, or just behaving in a different and unusual way. Seizures can also sometimes be a symptom of an underlying condition.

A neurologist will be able to determine what type of seizures someone experiences by obtaining a description of the seizure from the person or family member who witnessed it, or by doing an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record the activity of the brain. Scans and blood tests can also help to determine the cause of seizures.

While seizures themselves aren’t usually dangerous, the risks and potential dangerous consequences to consider include, for instance, getting a seizure while swimming or driving.

Anyone can get epilepsy. Some people are born with it, and others develop it after an illness or a head injury. Common seizure triggers include alcohol, drugs, certain medications, sleep deprivation, pregnancy and the skipping of medication doses.

A large variety of medication is available for the treatment of epilepsy. The type of medication a neurologist prescribes will depend on the type of epilepsy you have, how well it seems to be working and how well you tolerate particular side effects.

(Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general background information and not to substitute any medical diagnosis or advice received from a qualified healthcare professional.)

References:
- Epilepsy SA, Fact sheet. [Online] Available at: http://epilepsy.org.za/new/epilepsy-facts-sheet/. Accessed: 29 July 2015
- Sirven, Jospeh I. MD and Shafer, Patricia O. MD. What is Epilepsy? Epilepsy Foundation (US) January 2014. [Online] Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-101/what-epilepsy. Accessed: 29 July 2015
- Rose-Innes, Andrew MD. Epilepsy. Health24.com. July 2004 [Online] Available at: http://www.health24.com/Medical/Epilepsy/Overview/What-is-epilepsy-20120721. Accessed: 29 July 2015

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Should the red carpet portion of SONA be scrapped this year?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, it's inappropriate given the state of the country
93% - 1552 votes
No, it's part of the tradition
7% - 108 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.58
+0.4%
Rand - Pound
21.18
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
18.85
+0.5%
Rand - Aus dollar
12.21
-0.4%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.6%
Platinum
972.03
-0.2%
Palladium
1,648.06
+3.1%
Gold
1,869.04
+0.1%
Silver
22.13
-0.6%
Brent Crude
80.99
+1.3%
Top 40
73,434
-0.1%
All Share
79,534
-0.1%
Resource 10
74,594
+0.7%
Industrial 25
102,656
-0.5%
Financial 15
16,333
-0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE