Epilepsy is a relatively common neurological condition which is largely characterised by frequent seizures, caused by electrical activity in the brain. These bursts of electrical activity can change the way the brain works and lead to a number of symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Seizures can affect people indifferent ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved. They can occur in sleep or when you are awake and may sometimes be triggered by something – for instance, being very tired.

Seizures can often involve:

  • Uncontrollable jerking and shaking (often called a "fit")
  • Loss of awareness and staring blankly into space
  • Becoming stiff
  • Strange sensations, such as a "rising" feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs
  • Collapsing and/or loss of consciousness
  • Amnesia

There is a wide range of seizure types which are each largely characterised by a specific set of symptoms. These include:

  • Simple partial (focal) seizures or 'auras'
  • Complex partial (focal) seizures
  • Tonic-clonic seizures
  • Absences
  • Myoclonic seizures
  • Clonic seizures
  • Tonic seizures
  • Atonic seizures
  • Status epilepticus

Find out more about seizure types, here.

Cause and treatment

In most cases of Epilepsy, the exact cause is not completely understood. However, it is possible that the development of the condition maybe linked to genes, as around 1 in 3 people with epilepsy also have a family member with it.

Epilepsy may also be caused by brain damage, such as damage sustained through a stroke, a brain tumour or infection, severe head injury, drug or alcohol abuse, or a lack of oxygen during birth.

There are a number of treatment options that may reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, or in some cases, even stop seizures completely.

These include:

  • Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) - help in around 7/10 Epilepsy patients
  • Surgery to remove a small part of the brain that is causing the seizures
  • Placement of a small electrical device inside the body that can control seizures
  • A special diet (the ketogenic diet) that may help to control seizures

Medical Cannabis and Epilepsy

While these treatment options are often helpful, there are cases where even multiple treatment options may fail. Intractable or treatment-resistant Epilepsies, such as Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, and syndrome may not be responsive to traditional treatment. There is substantial evidence that medical cannabis products may be useful in reducing the severity and frequency of seizures in patients with these forms of treatment-resistant Epilepsy.

Our specialist physicians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.