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As per a story taken from, Anna Coe is 36. She was first diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of nine and although she has never let the condition get in the way of her education or employment – she works for a homeless charity in Surrey and was previously a journalist – she describes her life as a constant battle to get her seizures under control.

“I have had 27 years of trial and error with so many different medications, or combinations of medications,” she says. “In 2011 I underwent surgery to remove the part of my brain that was causing my seizures – that worked for two and a half years, but then my seizures returned.” Initially Anna experienced complex partial seizures which meant that though she was conscious, she was unaware of where she was or what she was doing – “I often locked myself out of the house”, she says. This story just about sums up the trials and tribulations that epileptic suffers go through as a result of this still to unfathomable disease.

What is epilepsy?

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, USA, “ Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behaviour, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.” Since epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect any process your brain is involved in.

Generally speaking, treatment with medication or surgery can control seizures for the majority of people suffering from epilepsy. However, there are people who require lifelong treatment to control seizures; for others, the seizures eventually do go away. There are children with epilepsy who have outgrown the condition as they have grown older. Doctors generally classify seizures as either focal or generalized, based on how the abnormal brain activity presents itself.

Points to keep in mind about epilepsy:

  • Anyone can develop epilepsy – it can affect males and females of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds and ages
  • Having just one seizure doesn’t mean a person has epilepsy. Typically, at least two unprovoked seizures are required for an epilepsy diagnosis
  • Seizure symptoms can vary widely. For instance:
  • Some people simply stare blankly for a few seconds
  • Others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs

Symptoms of epilepsy

Symptoms do vary depending on the type of seizure. Generally, a person with epilepsy will in all likelihood have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode. These may include:

  • Short periods of confusion
  • Staring spells
  • Uncontrollable jerky movements of arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or déjà vu

Causes of epilepsy

Epilepsy has no specific cause (diagnosed as Idiopathic Epilepsy) in about 50% of the people with the condition. In the other 50%, the condition may be traced to various factors, including:

  • Genetic influence
  • Head trauma
  • Brain conditions
  • Infectious diseases
  • Prenatal injury
  • Developmental disorders

Factors that could increase the risk of epilepsy:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Head injuries
  • Stroke and other vascular diseases
  • Dementia
  • Brain infections
  • Seizures in childhood

Complications and injuries resulting from seizures

  • Falls and other accidents
  • Drowning
  • Car accidents
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Emotional health issues
  • Status epilepticus
  • Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP)

When to see a doctor

Get medical help immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • A seizure lasts more than five minutes
  • Breathing or consciousness doesn’t return after the seizure stops
  • A second seizure follows immediately after the first one
  • The onset of high fever.
  • Experience heat exhaustion
  • You’re pregnant.
  • You are diabetic
  • Hurt yourself during the seizure
  • Experience a seizure for the first time
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