Epilepsy Basics

Epilepsy is referred to as a seizure disorder. Your brain is the control centre of your body. It oversees movement, sensation, emotion, memory and thought. It's also responsible for the important functions your body does on its own, for example, your heart beat, breathing.

Your brain cells communicate with each other by sending electrical signals. A seizure is what happens when a group of cells have an abnormal electrical discharge.

There are several different kinds of seizures and the kind of seizure a person has depends on where the discharge happens in their brain.

Seizures may be triggered by:

  • stress
  • missing or forgetting to take medication
  • taking medications other than seizure medication
  • missing meals
  • not eating healthy
  • hormonal changes (a woman's menstrual cycle)
  • alcohol consumption
  • the use of street drugs
  • flickering lights
  • not getting enough sleep
  • humidity and/or heat
  • illness, fever and allergies

Epilepsy Facts

  • More than 300,000 Canadians have epilepsy. Every year 14,000 people are diagnosed. Every day in Canada, an average of 42 people learn they have epilepsy. These numbers may be higher but because of social stigma, many people are reluctant to receive this diagnosis.
  • The majority - 75-85 per cent - are diagnosed before their 18th birthday.
  • Epilepsy is not hereditary.
  • For children who experience seizures, changes in frequency and intensity may occur as the child grows.
  • In about half of the cases of childhood epilepsy, seizures completely disappear.

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