What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain and causes frequent seizures. Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works. They can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Epilepsy can start at any age, but usually starts either in childhood or in people over 60. It’s often lifelong but can sometimes get slowly better over time.

Types of Seizures

Below you will see the types of seizures that may occur. Each type has different characteristics:

Simple partial (focal) seizures or ‘auras’

A simple partial seizure can cause:

  • a general strange feeling that’s hard to describe.
  • a “rising” feeling in your tummy – like the sensation in your stomach when on a fairground ride.
  • a feeling that events have happened before (déjà vu).
  • unusual smells or tastes.
  • tingling in your arms and legs.
  • an intense feeling of fear or joy.
  • stiffness or twitching in part of your body, such as an arm or hand.

You remain awake and aware while this happens.

These seizures are sometimes known as “warnings” or “auras” because they can be a sign that another type of seizure is about to happen.

Information from: NHS website

Complex partial (focal) seizures

During a complex partial seizure, you lose your sense of awareness and make random body movements, such as:

  • smacking your lips.
  • rubbing your hands.
  • making random noises.
  • moving your arms around.
  • picking at clothes or fiddling with objects.
  • chewing or swallowing.

You will not be able to respond to anyone else during the seizure and you will not have any memory of it.

Information from: Cedars Sinai

Tonic-clonic seizures

A tonic-clonic seizure, previously known as a “grand mal”, is what most people think of as a typical epileptic fit.

They happen in 2 stages – an initial ”tonic” stage, shortly followed by a second “clonic” stage:

  1. tonic stage – you lose consciousness, your body goes stiff, and you may fall to the floor
  2. clonic stage – your limbs jerk about, you may lose control of your bladder or bowel, you may bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek, and you might have difficulty breathing

The seizure normally stops after a few minutes, but some last longer. Afterwards, you may have a headache or difficulty remembering what happened and feel tired or confused.

Information from: Epilepsy Action


An absence seizure, which used to be called a “petit mal”, is where you lose awareness of your surroundings for a short time. They mainly affect children, but can happen at any age.

During an absence seizure, a person may:

  • stare blankly into space
  • look like they’re “daydreaming”
  • flutter their eyes
  • make slight jerking movements of their body or limbs

The seizures usually only last up to 15 seconds and you will not be able to remember them. They can happen several times a day.

Information from: Mayo Clinic

Myoclonic seizures

A myoclonic seizure is where some or all of your body suddenly twitches or jerks, like you’ve had an electric shock. They often happen soon after waking up.

Myoclonic seizures usually only last a fraction of a second, but several can sometimes occur in a short space of time. You normally remain awake during them.

Information from: Epilepsy Foundation

Atonic seizures

Atonic seizures cause all your muscles to suddenly relax, so you may fall to the ground.

They tend to be very brief and you’ll usually be able to get up again straight away.

Information from: Epilepsy Foundation

Benign Rolandic Epilepsy (BRE)

Benign Rolandic Epilepsy (BRE), also known as Benign Epilepsy with Centrotemporal Spikes (BECTS), is a type of Epilepsy that affects children.

Benign Rolandic Epilepsy is a syndrome that starts causing seizures in children between the ages of 6 and 8 years old.

Benign Rolandic Epilepsy is characterised by twitching, numbness or tingling in the child’s face or tongue, and may interfere with speech and cause drooling. The child may also maintain full awareness while the seizure is happening, and seizures tend to be brief and last no more than 2 minutes usually.

Information from: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Status Epilepticus

Status epilepticus is the name for any seizure that lasts a long time, or a series of seizures where the person does not regain consciousness in between.

Information from: Johns Hopkins Medicine


For many people with epilepsy, seizures seem to happen randomly.

But sometimes they can have a trigger, such as:

  • Stress.
  • A lack of sleep.
  • Waking up.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Some medicines and illegal drugs.
  • Flashing lights (this is an uncommon trigger).


Keeping a diary of when you have seizures and what happened before them can help you identify and avoid some possible triggers.

Remember, seizures are a medical emergency and need to be treated as soon as possible.

You can be trained to treat and manage epilepsy if you look after someone with epilepsy. If you have not had any training, call 999 for an ambulance immediately if someone has a seizure that has not stopped after 5 minutes.

How we understand living with Epilepsy can be difficult

Our team at SOS Care Services understand the difficulties faced by those affected by Epilepsy and their loved ones. Those living with Epilepsy can have good days and bad days, and our team acknowledge each day with patience and reassurance.

SOS Care Services are experienced with working with a wide age-range of people who are diagnosed and experiencing Epilepsy. Below is what you can expect from an SOS Care Services Employee with Epilepsy experience:

  • Care plans are completed with the client’s Epilepsy in mind: these are working documents and are always updated when required.
  • SOS Care Services understand that Epilepsy is different for each person. Therefore, every Staff member must read and sign care plans and treatment plans to ensure each client is cared for in the right way.
  • Our team at SOS Care Services are experienced in using Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) as a form of treatment to reduce the number of seizures experienced, and their intensity.
  • Medication training is provided to the team at SOS Care Services, including Buccal Midazolam.

Support with understanding Epilepsy

We understand the importance of a strong support system here at SOS Care Services. We are always here to offer advice where possible, but below you can find other organisations that provide impartial support and advice regarding Epilepsy:

Epilepsy Action

Epilepsy Society

The Brain Charity

Young Epilepsy

Epilepsy Research UK