Welcome to the OutUK series looking at gay men and their health brought to you in association with the NHS website.
Each week we'll tackle a different topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We'll have features and advice on everything from relationships, sexual health, mental and physical conditions and how to stay fit. You can follow any of links provided below for more information direct from the NHS website, or see this week's feature T: Trichomoniasis (STI).

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.

Symptoms of epilepsy

Seizures can affect people in different ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved.

Possible symptoms include:

  • uncontrollable jerking and shaking, called a "fit"
  • losing 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

Sometimes you might pass out and not remember what happened.

When to get medical help

See a GP if you think you might have had a seizure for the first time.

This does not mean you have epilepsy, as a seizure can have several causes and sometimes they're just a one-off, but you should see a doctor to find out why it happened.

Find out more about the tests for epilepsy you might have

Call 999 for an ambulance if someone:

  • is having a seizure for the first time
  • has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes
  • has lots of seizures in a row
  • has breathing problems or has seriously injured themselves

Find out what to do if someone has a seizure

Treatments for epilepsy

Treatment can help most people with epilepsy have fewer seizures or stop having seizures completely.

Treatments include:

  • medicines called anti-epileptic drugs - these are the main treatment
  • surgery to remove a small part of the brain that's causing the seizures
  • a procedure to put a small electrical device inside the body that can help control seizures
  • a special diet (ketogenic diet) that can help control seizures

Some people need treatment for life. But you might be able to stop treatment if your seizures disappear over time.

Living with epilepsy

Epilepsy is usually a lifelong condition, but most people with it are able to have normal lives if their seizures are well controlled.

Most children with epilepsy are able to go to a mainstream school, take part in most activities and sports, and get a job when they're older.

But you may have to think about your epilepsy before you do things such as driving, certain jobs, swimming, using contraception and planning a pregnancy.

Advice is available from a GP or support groups to help you adjust to life with epilepsy.

Find out more about living with epilepsy

Causes of epilepsy

In epilepsy, the electrical signals in the brain become scrambled and there are sometimes sudden bursts of electrical activity. This is what causes seizures.

In most cases, it's not clear why this happens. It's possible it could be partly caused by your genes affecting how your brain works, as around 1 in 3 people with epilepsy have a family member with it.

Occasionally, epilepsy can be caused by damage to the brain, such as damage from:

OutUK's A to Z of Gay Health continues and you can read this week's feature T: Trichomoniasis (STI). We have covered many subjects in this series and you can catch up with all of our Previous A to Z Features.

If you want to find out more about this particular topic you can visit the Original article on the NHS website. If you are worried by any aspect of your health make sure you go and see your doctor or book an appointment at your local clinic.

Photos: LightFieldStudios and one of VladOrlov, Stockcube, darak77, ajr_images or rawpixel.com.

 

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