What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. The condition is characterized by having seizures. This happens as a result of the nerve cells in the brain becoming interrupted. The seizures associated with epilepsy can be so severe that the person loses consciousness. It is estimated that about 1 in 26 people in the United States suffers from epilepsy. About ten percent of people may have an unprecedented seizure at some point in their life. It is important to know that having just one seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. However, if a person has at least two seizures at some point in their life, they should be examined for epilepsy.


There are a number of signs and symptoms that are associated with epilepsy. The symptoms of epilepsy can vary depending on the cause or severity of the condition. Symptoms of epilepsy may be mild or severe. Regardless of how significant the symptoms of the seizure or epilepsy condition is, a person should always seek treatment because any symptoms can be potentially dangerous depending on the situation in which they occur. Symptoms can either harm the person themselves or harm others who are close by.

Signs and symptoms of epilepsy may include temporary confusion, a staring spell, uncontrollable movement of the arms and legs, loss of consciousness or awareness, or psychic symptoms. The symptoms may vary depending on the type of seizure. There are two main types of seizures: focal seizures and generalized seizures. Among focal seizures, a person may have a simple partial seizure which is a focal seizure without loss of consciousness, or a complex partial seizure which is a focal dyscognitive seizure. Among generalized seizures, a person may have an absence seizure, a tonic seizure, an atonic seizure, a myoclonic seizure, or a tonic-clonic seizure.

There are a number of things that may cause a person to have a seizure. Causes of seizures include a head trauma, an infectious disease, prenatal injury, developmental disorders, or a genetically related condition. Other times, the cause of epilepsy may be unknown.

The risk factors for epilepsy include age, family history, having a prior head injury, having a stroke or other vascular disease, having dementia, having a brain infection such as meningitis, or having a history of epilepsy during childhood. Treatment for epilepsy often includes medications or sometimes surgery. Treatment can usually control or manage the condition for about 80 percent of people who suffer from epilepsy.