Frequently Asked Questions

EpilepsyExpand Epilepsy Section

1. What is epilepsy?

It’s a common brain disease characterized by the tendency to have recurrent seizures, which are sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain that cause a disturbance in the way brain cells communicate with each other.  There are many kinds of seizures, depending on which part and how much of the brain is affected. Currently there is no cure, and for many it is lifelong. For more information, click here.

2. What should I do if someone has a seizure?

Your goal is to protect the person from harm until full awareness returns. Different seizure types require different levels of intervention but generally, you will want to:

  • Protect the person from injury, move any hard, sharp, or hot objects away and loosen any tight neck wear.
  • Do not restrain the person or put anything in their mouth.
  • Check the time so you know when the seizure started.
  • Check for medical or emergency identification.
  • If you know that the person has epilepsy or a seizure disorder continue to time the episode. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or repeats without full recovery, call 911.
  • If the person does not have epilepsy or a seizure disorder, call 911.
  • After the seizure subsides, roll the individual onto their side and clear vomit from their mouth if necessary.

For information on seizure first aid for different types of seizures, click here.

3. How is epilepsy treated?

Medication is the most common and effective way to treat epilepsy; however, there are also non-drug treatments such as surgery, ketogenic diets, and nerve stimulation. It’s important to remember that everyone is different, and everyone responds differently, so a person with epilepsy should discuss their care with their physician before making any changes to their treatment. For more information of epilepsy treatment, click here.

4. Can people die from epilepsy?

Potential causes of death related to epilepsy can be from injuries or accidents during a seizure (such as drowning) or from complications related to status epilepticus. Other epilepsy-related deaths are categorized as SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) if a person dies suddenly without a cause for death found at autopsy. A death is categorized as SUDEP when someone with epilepsy dies without any detectable reason and without warning. SUDEP can occur during the day but happens more often at night during sleep which makes it difficult to find out what happened.. The strongest risk factor for SUDEP is having frequent generalized tonic-clonic seizures. SUDEP accounts for up to 18% of all deaths in people with epilepsy. For more information on SUDEP, click here.

5. What is the difference between epilepsy and seizures?

They’re very closely related, but not quite the same. A seizure is the brief disruption in normal brain activity that interferes with brain function. Anyone can potentially have a seizure and it doesn’t automatically mean that they have epilepsy. Epilepsy is a brain disorder associated with an increased susceptibility to seizures.

Epilepsy South Eastern OntarioExpand Epilepsy South Eastern Ontario Section

1. Where does my donation to ESEO go?

As a non-profit organization, the kind contributions of our supporters are of utmost importance to us. Our funds are largely dedicated to our support services, transportation services, and awareness initiatives. To donate, click here.

2. How can ESEO help me?

Epilepsy South Eastern Ontario offers a variety of services to those living with epilepsy, including one-on-one support, group support sessions that run once a month, information sheets to take info home, and community displays to help spread awareness. Our programs include an epilepsy clinic at Hotel Dieu to provide an immediate point of contact for clients and Emily’s Fund to transport clients to medical appointments and other required services. To read more about our services and programs, click here.

Living with EpilepsyExpand Living with Epilepsy Section

1. What should I do after having a seizure for the first time?

Call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency department. A first-time seizure is a medical emergency. Experiencing a seizure for the first time can be a frightening experience. First, know that a single seizure is not an automatic sign of epilepsy – there may be other causes. It’s important to have a medical evaluation.

2. Am I allowed to drive in Ontario if I have epilepsy?

In Ontario you can drive with epilepsy if you meet a certain criteria regarding your level of seizure control or the recent nature of your seizures. If your physician feels that it’s not safe for you to drive, they are required by law to report you to the Ministry of Transportation. If you don’t agree with this, you can provide evidence and follow other steps to try and reinstate (or obtain) your licence. For more information on driving in Ontario, click here.

3. What should I bring to my first medical appointment?

Take note of what happened during the seizure – how long it lasted, what happened before and after, and any other details you feel are relevant. You might need to ask someone else for help if you don’t remember all of it. Write down some questions you want to ask your doctor. If you’re not sure what to ask, here are some suggestions:

  • What kind of seizure did I have?
  • How will this affect my ability to drive/work/travel?
  • Will I have to start taking medications and if so, which ones and why?
  • What sorts of things will I need to adjust in my life (home/work/school) in order to keep myself safe?

4. How will being diagnosed with epilepsy affect my employment?

 It can depend on different factors, such as the nature of your existing or desired employment, the nature of your seizures, and your level of seizure control. You might need accommodation in your workplace so you can continue to work, and you may need to negotiate other adjustments to your position. In Ontario, you are protected by law against discrimination in recruitment, hiring, retention, treatment, and promotion. However, your suitability for certain jobs may need to be assessed for reasons such as safety; certain career paths may no longer be open to you as well. Thoroughly understand your epilepsy and discuss your situation with your employer.

5. How will alcohol affect me differently if I have epilepsy?

Alcohol in large amounts can increase your risk of seizures. However, in small and moderate amounts, alcohol has not been shown to increase the chance of seizures. In terms of other effects and if you should be consuming alcohol, it’s best to consult your physician about your individual situation. For more information of the affects of alcohol, click here.