For support and further information you can contact your regional branch of Epilepsy NZ, as follows:

Auckland (South)
Phone 09 263 5454   or    0800 20 21 22      

Auckland (West)
Phone 0800 20 21 22      

Canterbury/West Coast
Phone 03 379 8175   or    0800 20 21 22      

Phone 06 868 1050   or     0800 20 21 22      

Hawkes Bay
Phone 06 835 5537   or    0800 20 21 22      

Nelson / Marlborough
Phone 03 546 6398    or     0800 20 21 22      

North Shore / Rodney
Phone 09 442 0977   or   0800 20 21 22      

Phone 09 438 5498   or    0800 20 21 22      

Phone 03 471 6207   or     0800 20 21 22      

Rotorua/Eastern Bay of Plenty
Phone 07 346 3912   or    0800 20 21 22      

Phone 03 218 3089   or    0800 20 21 22      

Phone 06 757 5644    or     0800 20 21 22      

Phone 07 838 1433   or    0800 20 21 22      

Phone  06 347-1081       or       0800 20 21 22      

Phone 0800 20 21 22      

Western Bay of Plenty
Phone 07 579 6091    or     0800 20 21 22      

Go to our 'Things you should know about' section

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain have burts of excessive and disorderlyactivity. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed; the bursts of abnormal activity can cause strange sensations, emotions, and behaviour or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. 

Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity - from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development - can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signalling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test for epilepsy.

Is there any treatment?

Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 80 per cent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. There are several anti-epileptic medications, so that a neurologist is the best person to advise on the most appropriate medication depending on the type of epilepsy and to discuss side-effects of the medications. A small number of patients with medically uncontrolled epilepsy are treated surgically

What is the prognosis?

Most people with epilepsy lead normal lives. While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. Most seizures do not cause brain damage. For many people with epilepsy, the risk of seizures restricts their independence and recreational activities; driving restrictions are particularly frustrating and limiting. Some people with epilepsy are at special risk for two life-threatening conditions: status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death. Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant, but they should discuss their epilepsy and the medications they are taking with their doctors. Women with epilepsy have a 90 per cent or better chance of having a normal, healthy baby.

What research is being done?

Scientists are studying potential antiepileptic drugs with goal of enhancing treatment for epilepsy. Scientists continue to study how neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. One of the most-studied neurotransmitters is GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. Researchers are working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy. This information may allow doctors to prevent epilepsy or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial. Doctors are now experimenting with several new types of therapies for epilepsy, including transplanting foetal pig neurons into the brains of patients to learn whether cell transplants can help control seizures, transplanting stem cells, and using a device that could predict seizures up to 3 minutes before they begin. Researchers are continually improving MRI and other brain scans. Studies have shown that in some cases, children may experience fewer seizures if they maintain a strict diet - called the ketogenic diet - rich in fats and low in carbohydrates.

The material on this page “Disorders – Epilepsy” has been sourced from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders

For more information on what services are available to you please see our "Things you should know about" page which includes the following: