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Facts about Epilepsy

  • Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurring seizures.
  • There are many different seizure types and seizure syndromes. Epilepsy is not just one condition; there are many forms of epilepsy.
  • Epilepsy can affect anyone. Any age, any background, any level of intelligence.
  • Around 2 per cent of people will develop epilepsy at some stage in their life, around 100,000 children and adults in Queensland.
  • A much larger number of family, friends, class mates and colleagues may also be affected.
  • Epilepsy in not contagious.
  • Many people with epilepsy still say the biggest problem they face is dealing with the attitude of others. Ignorance, stigma, discrimination and fear are still major problems.
  • One in ten people will have a single seizure at some stage in their life. One seizure is not necessarily seen as epilepsy.
  • A large proportion of children who have epilepsy will grow out of it by adulthood.
  • Most people with epilepsy can live a perfectly normal life and do most things everyone else can do, with the help of simple safety measures where appropriate.
  • People with epilepsy in Queensland can drive provided they meet licensing regulations, their seizures have been controlled for a certain length of time, they do not drink alcohol and they take their epilepsy medication as prescribed.
  • Terminology and labels to be avoided that may help reduce stigma:
    • Illness - epilepsy is a neurological condition, not an illness. 
    • Disorder -epilepsy is a disease, not a disorder. 
    • Fit - the term seizure is preferred. There are many different types of seizures. A convulsion is a term for a seizure involving stiffening and jerking of the body. ‘Fit’ implies willful outbursts, like a ‘tantrum’, or loss of emotional control. 
    • Victim or sufferer – this implies someone who is helpless. Most people with epilepsy want your understanding, but not your pity. 
    • Epileptic – the person is a human being first, a person with epilepsy second. A person with epilepsy is a more appropriate term to use. Like most of us, people with epilepsy dislike labels. These feelings can be explained by the phrase ‘epilepsy is what I have, not who I am’. 
    • Grand Mal or Petit Mal – these are terms once used to describe seizures. We now understand there are many different types of seizures, so these terms are too general, outdated and inappropriate to use. 
    • Controlled – seizures may be controlled with medication. The term ‘controlled epileptic’ implies the person needs to be restrained in some way.

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