Epilepsy & Seizure Disorders

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition.

  • Epilepsy is a condition of the brain causing seizures.
  • A seizure is a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons.
  • Someone is said to have epilepsy if they experience two or more unprovoked seizures separated by at least 24 hours.

What are Seizures?

Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain.

  • Seizures are caused by a problem in the electrical signaling of the brain. Groups of neurons suddenly begin firing excessively, leading to involuntary responses, including strange sensations, emotions, behaviors or convulsions, muscle spasms and possibly loss of consciousness. However, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but most of the time the cause is unknown.
  • 65 MILLION: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
  • OVER 2 MILLION: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy.
  • 1 IN 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
  • BETWEEN 4 AND 10 OUT OF 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time.
  • 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year.
  • ONE-THIRD: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.
  • 6 OUT OF 10: Number of people with epilepsy where the cause is unknown.

Does a Seizure Mean I Have Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the term used to describe when you have reoccurring seizures. If you've experienced recurring seizures (2 or more) and all other possible causes have been ruled out - such as alcohol withdrawal, extremely low blood sugar, heart problems, or other medical conditions - you may have epilepsy.

What Causes Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is caused by irregular brain activity and can develop at any age. Some people are born with a defect in the structure of their brain. Others have had a head injury, tumor, lead poisoning, stroke, or an infection causing epilepsy. The seizure might not occur until years after the injury, but in all cases, a seizure is the common symptom.

Epilepsy is a general term for a group of disorders that cause disturbances in electrical signaling in the brain. Like an office building or a computer, the brain is a highly complex electrical system, powered by roughly 80 pulses of energy per second. These pulses move back and forth between nerve cells to produce thoughts, feelings and memories.

An epileptic seizure occurs when these energy pulses come much more rapidly - as many as 500 per second for a short time-due to an electrical abnormality in the brain. This brief electrical surge can happen in just a small area of the brain that is affected, or it can affect the whole brain. Depending on the part of the brain that is affected, the surge of electricity can cause:

  • Changes in a person's sensations or state of consciousness.
  • Uncontrolled movements of certain parts of the body or the whole body.

These changes are known as an epileptic seizure.

  • Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder because the tendency is to have recurrent seizures.
  • Epileptic seizures vary in severity and frequency, and even in the time of day they occur.
  • While some people may experience no more than two or three seizures during their entire lifetime, others will have several seizures in one day.

10 Truths About Epilepsy


Treatment of Seizures

The doctor will first want to talk to you about trying a seizure medication. There are many different medications that are taken daily to control seizures. Some will work for certain kinds of seizures, yet others may work for many different seizure types. Choosing the right medicine depends on a number of factors such as:

  • The type of seizure
  • The person's age and gender
  • Other medical problems the person may have
  • If you are a woman who wants to get pregnant
  • Possible side effects from the medicine

There are many other or alternative treatment possibilities for patients with epilepsy depending on the type, severity, frequency and cause of seizures. These include additional medication, surgery, dietary therapies, vagus nerve therapy, as well as other complementary health approaches.



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