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How does epilepsy start

How does Epilepsy start?

How does Epilepsy start?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterised by recurrent and unprovoked seizures. These seizures are a result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain which results in a multitude of various physical and mental disruptions. Understanding how epilepsy starts can give those affected by epilepsy perspective on the complex disorder. In this blog, we will discuss how epilepsy starts, the different types of seizures that can result, and the vital role of rescue medications when living with this condition.

How Epilepsy Starts: The Emergence of Seizures

Epileptic seizures are the most known characteristic of the neurological disorder.  There are various factors that can cause the abnormal brain activity resulting in the seizures, these include genetic as genetic predisposition, brain injuries, infections, or developmental disorders. In some cases, the exact cause remains unknown.

Within the brain, groups of brain calls can misfire and send abnormal signals. This causes a sudden surge of electrical activity which has been found to cause these seizures.  Generally, this can manifest as convulsions, loss of consciousness, altered sensations, and sudden mental or emotional changes.

How Epilepsy Starts: Different Types of Epileptic Episodes

Epileptic seizures are not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon; rather, they manifest in various forms, each with distinct characteristics.  Below we will discuss the common types.

Focal Partial seizures occur when the anormal activity initiating the seizure originates in a specific area of the brain. They are categorised into Focal Onset Aware Seizures and the Focal Onset Impaired Awareness seizures.

Focal Onset Aware seizures, previously known as simple partial seizures, do not result in loss of consciousness but do incur unusual sensations, stiffness or twitching in the body or intense emotions to name a few.  Many individuals with experience of epilepsy refer to these as ‘warnings’ or ‘auras’ as they can be a precursor to developing into a different type of seizure.

Focal Impaired Awareness seizure, previously know as complex partial seizures, affect a bigger part of one side of the bran that Focal Onset Aware seizures.  These lead to altered consciousness and confusion. They may be aware but unable to react normally or unable to respond to you at all. In addition to this, they present with repetitive and purposeless behaviours such as lip smacking. .

Generalised seizures are another category of seizure which contains multiple subtypes. Unlike Focal Partial seizures where only one area of the brain is affected, the generalised seizures are a result of the abnormal activity affecting both hemispheres of the brain.

Tonic-Clonic is a sub type of the generalised seizures which was previously name a ‘grand mal seizure’. They are the most common type of seizure and what comes to mind when people think of epilepsy. They result in a loss of consciousness then stiffness of muscle alongside rhythmic contractions and relaxation of the muscles.

Absence seizures are most commonly seen with children. It is named an absence seizure as it causes a brief episode where the individual is conscious but unresponsive. They may seem totally aware but with a ‘blank stare’.  The person will cease what they are doing and look blankly ahead.

Myoclonic seizures are recognised for causing rapid, brief muscle jerks which either affect specific muscles or the entire body. They cause brief loss of consciousness. They are most likely to occur on waking.

How Epilepsy Starts: Rescue Medications

For individuals with epilepsy, the unpredictability of seizures can be daunting. To address this, rescue medications play a vital role in managing epileptic emergencies and preventing prolonged or repeated seizures, also known as status epilepticus. These medications can be administered by caregivers or medical professionals and often include:

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and lorazepam, are commonly used as first-line rescue medications. They work by enhancing the brain’s inhibitory signals, which help suppress excessive electrical activity. Administered orally, intravenously, or through a nasal spray, these medications can swiftly halt a seizure or prevent its progression into status epilepticus.

In recent years, midazolam nasal spray has gained popularity as an easy-to-administer rescue medication. Its non-invasive application makes it particularly useful for caregivers and school staff who might need to assist individuals with epilepsy.

In some situations, intranasal epinephrine might be employed, especially when other rescue medications are unavailable or contraindicated. However, this option is less commonly used and requires careful consideration.

How Epilepsy Starts: Conclusion

Understanding how epilepsy starts is essential for both individuals diagnosed with the condition and their caregivers. The diverse array of seizures underscores the complexity of epilepsy and the necessity for tailored treatment approaches. As we’ve explored, rescue medications play a crucial role in managing the onset of seizures and preventing potential complications. If you or a loved one have epilepsy, consulting with a healthcare professional is paramount to developing a comprehensive seizure management plan that includes the appropriate rescue medications for your specific situation. With advancements in both medical understanding and treatment options, those living with epilepsy can strive for better seizure control and an improved quality of life.

For further information, please click here to visit our webpage on our Epilepsy Awareness with Rescue Medication course. This can be delivered virtually or face-to-face, tailored to suit your needs. If you like to book, or some further information, you can contact us on 01476 979183 or email us at




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