Epilepsy - In Brief

Epilepsy is a condition in which the sufferer has recurrent seizures over an extended period of time.  It affects around one in every 100 people but around 80 per cent of cases can be controlled with medication.

Epilepsy can be the result of brain damage caused by injury, infection, hormonal problems, circulatory disorders or tumours.  But in most cases, the cause of epilepsy is not clear.  Seizures can be brought on by a variety of factors including stress, certain visual stimulation, alcohol and drug use, sleep deprivation, a change in diet or medication, excess caffeine and poor dietary habits which may result in low blood sugar levels

During a seizure there is an uncontrolled and abnormal burst of electrical and chemical activity that spreads rapidly between nerve cells in the brain.  Although seizures in themselves are not usually life-threatening, the consequences of seizing (e.g. while driving or swimming) may be fatal.

There are three main types of epilepsy:

  • Grand mal
  • Petit mal
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy (also known as psycho-motor epilepsy).

A further category is the JACKSONIAN fit, which may occur by itself or be followed by a grand mal seizure.

The symptoms differ for each type.
 
Epilepsy is not a mental illness and its victims are no more likely to suffer mental illness than anyone else.  Although sufferers may not drive motor vehicles in South Africa without a doctor’s certificate saying the condition is under medical control, they can usually lead an otherwise normal life.

The REEA Foundation is an organisation that focuses both on people who live with this chronic condition, as well as activities centred on raising awareness within communities, in order that they can learn more about the condition.