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What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects people worldwide. People with the disease have recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement and are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function.

Seizures can vary from small lapses of attention or muscle jerks to severe and prolonged convulsions. Seizures can also vary in frequency, from less than 1 per year to several per day. One seizure does not mean someone has the disease (up to 10% of people worldwide have one seizure during their lifetime). It is defined as having 2 or more unprovoked seizures and is one of the world’s oldest recognized conditions, with written records dating back to 4000 BC.

Causes

The most common type of the disease, which affects 6 out of 10 people, is called idiopathic epilepsy and has no identifiable cause. It is not contagious.

Epilepsy with a known cause is referred to as secondary or symptomatic. The causes of secondary (or symptomatic) epilepsy could be:

  • brain damage from prenatal or perinatal injuries (e.g. a loss of oxygen or trauma during birth, low birth weight)
  • congenital abnormalities or genetic conditions with associated brain malformations
  • a severe head injury
  • a stroke that restricts the amount of oxygen to the brain
  • an infection of the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis, neurocysticercosis
  • certain genetic syndromes
  • a brain tumour

Why is FutureNeuro focused on Epilepsy?

40,000 Irish people have the disease and almost 30% of those do not respond to current treatment methods. 

The academic and clinical partners in our Centre are world-class leaders in epilepsy research who are committed to improving outcomes and wellbeing which can transform the lives of patients with Epilepsy. Through our unique thematic approaches of DiagnosisTherapeutics and E-Health, the centre will build upon the existing work of our research team.

For example:

  • David Henshall, our Director is a world-leading authority on network-targeting molecules in MicroRNA's
  • Gianpiero Cavalleri is a renowned geneticist who discovered the genetic predictor of adverse reaction to one of the most common epilepsy drugs.
  • Colin Doherty is the national clinical lead on epilepsy in Ireland.

Resources

Epilepsy Ireland is the national support organisation.

Definitions adapted from the WHO Epilepsy Factsheets