Epilepsy

The term epilepsy refers to numerous medical conditions characterised by an ongoing tendency to have seizures, that is, episodes of neurological disturbance related to excessive electrical activation within the brain. Seizures take many different forms, including loss of consciousness with falls and convulsions (jerking), milder impairments of consciousness, or involuntary movements or sensory disturbance without disturbance of consciousness.

 

Epilepsy is common, affecting about 4% of Australians, and can begin at any age. Approximately 5% of the population will have a one-off seizure rather than an ongoing seizure tendency; this is usually managed with observation rather than active treatment.

 

The role of the epilepsy specialist is to determine whether an event was a seizure or has some other explanation, and to estimate the risk of further events occurring. Control of epileptic seizures is mainly with medications, of which there are several options available, but other treatments such as surgery are appropriate in some cases. Most patients with epilepsy lead productive lives without significant restrictions on work, educational, recreational or family activities.