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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini


Mate hukihuki

Mother and daughter supportEpilepsy is a brain disorder that affects around 1% of people. It can affect people of all ages. People with epilepsy have seizures that are caused by brief abnormal electrical activity in their brains.

There are different types of seizures and epilepsy can be mild, severe or anywhere in between.

Epilepsy is often caused by genetic changes in brain cells. These may be passed on from parents (inherited).

Other causes are:

There are many forms of epilepsy, each of which can cause different types of seizures.

Diagnosing epilepsy

It can be difficult to diagnose epilepsy. Doctors use a detailed history of your symptoms, including hearing from people who have seen the possible seizure.

Possible tests include an EEG (measuring your brain's electrical activity) and CT or MRI scans of your brain.

Treating epilepsy

See Seizure first aid for advice on what to do if someone is having a seizure.

Epilepsy can usually be controlled with medication. There are several different types of medication used and it can take time to find the one medication or combination of medications that works for you. It can depend on the type of epilepsy you have and if you have unwanted side effects.

If medication doesn't work for you, some types of epilepsy may be treated with surgery or special medically supervised diets.

Self-care for epilepsy

Most people with epilepsy live a normal active life.

Eating well, being physically active, getting enough sleep and limiting alcohol are important with epilepsy.

Some people can identify triggers for their epilepsy and learn to avoid them.

There are steps you can take to improve your safety in case of a seizure.

Epilepsy New Zealand has more detailed information on all aspects of living well with epilepsy.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2022.


See also:

Seizure first aid

Page reference: 49144

Review key: HIEPI-29131