What is epilepsy & who does it impact?

Learning The Basics of Epilepsy

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder defined as having two or more recurring seizures; it can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a brief disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain that causes temporary changes in movement, awareness, feelings, behavior, or other bodily functions.

What should I do if I am recently diagnosed with epilepsy?

It is important to find the appropriate level of care to treat your epilepsy. 

What causes epilepsy?

In about half of epilepsy cases, there is no identifiable cause. Among the remaining half, causes can be classified as

  • Structural 
  • Genetic 
  • Metabolic
  • Immune
  • Infection (e.g. meningitis, encephalitis, and others):

Is there Treatment for epilepsy?

Most often, the first treatment tried in patients with epilepsy is daily medication. There are over 20 anti-seizure medications (AEDs) available. Most people with epilepsy are able to get complete seizure control by taking one or more anti-seizure medications; however, in 30 – 40% of patients, seizures continue despite treatment.

Learn More

If you have tried two appropriate medications, and you’re still having seizures or significant side effects, you should see an epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy) to confirm your diagnosis, review your current treatment regimen, and discuss other treatment options. Most epileptologists work at Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers, which feature a staff of epilepsy experts, including clinical nurse specialists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, and others, and access to the full array of diagnostic and treatment options.

In Addition to Medication

The following treatment options may be considered:

  • Brain Surgery
  • Dietary Therapies
  • Vagus NerveStimulation
  • Responsive Neurostimulation
  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Complementary Therapies

What are the different types of seizures?

Myoclonic Seizure

Sudden, involuntary, brief, shock-like bodily jerk caused by contractions of one or more muscles or muscle groups; often occurs in clusters

Focal Impaired Awareness Seizure

(Complex Partial Seizure): usually starts with a blank stare, followed by chewing, walking about, random movements, vocalizations, picking at clothing, or other actions that the individual cannot control (automatisms); the person is unresponsive and awareness of surroundings is clouded; usually lasts 1-2 minutes; the person will have no memory of what happened during the seizure and may be confused for several minutes after the seizure has stopped; in some cases, complex partial seizures may simply look like prolonged absence seizures; may be mistaken for mental illness, drug use, intoxication, aggression, or behavior problems

Focal Aware Seizure

(Simple Partial Seizure): the person is fully aware during the seizure; may involve jerking or other body movements, sensory distortions or hallucinations, unusual physical or emotional feelings, changes in bodily functions, or other symptoms that are not obvious to the onlooker; referred to as an aura if it precedes another seizure

Focal to Bilateral Tonic-Clonic Seizure

(Secondarily Generalized Seizure): a seizure that begins in one part of the brain and spreads to both sides of the brain to become a tonic-clonic seizure