Billions of tiny cells make up our brains. These cells transfer information from our brain to our thoughts, emotions, actions, actions and feelings. If someone has a short disruption to the brain it is called a seizure.

These disruptions to the brain can be caused for different reasons. Some of the reasons are not even known! Some of the reasons include:

Brain damage
Brian scarring
Chemical imbalance
Hormonal imbalance
Having a sensitive, vulnerable brain

How can epilepsy be treated?

Taking medication

Everyone that has epilepsy is different and will have different experiences. Most people will take anti-epileptic drugs (AED’s) to stop or reduce the amount of seizures. AED’s are not used to treat someone who is having a seizure.

Even though there are lots of types of treatments for different types of epilepsy, some people might not get in control of their epilepsy.
Facts about epilepsy

About 1 in 200 people will have epilepsy
30% of learning disabled people will also have epilepsy of some kind
In people with severe learning disabilities about 50% will have epilepsy
Having epilepsy is not caused by having a learning disability
Epilepsy and learning disabilities are separate causes of brain dysfunction or damage. For example damage at birth, tumours and accidents

Types of epilepsy

There are lots of types of epileptic seizure.
Generalised seizures

Generalised epileptic seizures affect the whole of the brain. There are different types of generalised seizures:
Tonic clonic epileptic seizure (this used to be called the Grand Mal seizure)

The person will become stiff and jerk about
The seizure may begin with a loud cry
The person will look and sound like they are in pain but they are not
They are unconscious and are unaware they are having a seizure
Their breathing will become shallow and slow they will have lots of saliva coming from their mouth
When a person comes out of a seizure they may be confused and will not remember what has happened. They might have a headache and be tired

Tonic epileptic seizure

The person will lose consciousness and become stiff.
If standing the person will fall over
The person will lose consciousness.
The person will recover quickly

Atonic epileptic seizure

Sometimes known as the drop attack.
This is the opposite of the tonic seizure
The person loses all muscles tone and goes floppy
The person is unconscious throughout
The person recovers quickly

How can I help someone have a generalised epileptic sizure?

Things to do


Yes (tick)




Remain calm
Remember the person is unconscious and feels no pain
Put a cushion, coat or something soft under the persons head to prevent further injury
Cup your hands under the person’s head if there is nothing around to put under the head.
Remove objects from the area
Only move the person if they are in danger. For example at the top of the stairs

What to do after the seizure has finished

Do put the person in the recovery position as soon as possible
Do First Aid on any injuries if you are trained in First Aid. If you are not trained in First Aid call for someone who is
Do wipe away any saliva and if the person is not breathing follow the First Aid (ABC) procedure. Check that there is nothing blocking their mouth
Do phone an ambulance if the person is not breathing
Do all you can to avoid the person being embarrassed and keep reassuring them
Inform a relative or friend

Things not to do


No (cross)



Do not move the person unless they are in danger
Do not put anything in the person’s mouth
Do not give the person anything to eat unless they have regained consciousness
Never try to restrain the person

Absence seizure (this used to be called the Peti Mal seizure)

This type of epileptic seizure:

Mostly happens in younger people
Can be mistaken for day dreaming
The person will look blank and stare into space for a few seconds
They will not respond to anything going on around them
The person will become unconscious and will stop what they are doing for a few seconds
They will not necessarily fall over

Myoclonic seizure

The arms, head and sometimes the whole body will jerk and the person will lose consciousness but only for a few seconds
They may be thrown off balance
They often happen in the morning

Partial/focal seizure

These seizures affect one small part of the brain
Simple partial seizure

When someone has one of these seizures they will be aware of what is going on
They might have a strange taste in their mouth and smell strange smells. These signs might be warnings before a seizure
These seizures sometimes develop into other seizures

Complex partial seizure

The person will not be totally aware of what they are doing. They might fiddle with their clothes or even undress
They may get very confused and act in a strange way
They make speak but not make sense

Status epilepticus

Most seizures end on their own but some seizures will not stop or another one will happen straight after
If this type of seizure happens you must phone an ambulance straight away

When do I call emergency medical help?

Call for help …

If someone has injured themselves badly in a seizure
If they are having trouble breathing after the seizure
If the seizure does not stop and the person has another one immediately afterwards
Either call an ambulance, or if there is someone who is trained to give emergency treatment to the person concerned, alert them of the situation