Epilepsy is a neurological condition also known as a seizure disorder. Seizures happen when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, which may briefly alter a person’s consciousness, movements or actions.
Seizures can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
There are over 40 types of epilepsy with different causes and different types of seizures. Some people even have more than one type of seizure.
For 60 to 70% of cases the cause of epilepsy is unknown. Some known causes are:
- Head trauma (a.k.a. Traumatic Brain Injury)
- Low oxygen during birth
- Brain tumor
- Developmental disorders (a.k.a. Autism or Neurofibromatosis)
- Abnormal levels of substances such as sodium or blood sugar
Anyone can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy affects both men and women of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Seizure symptoms can vary widely. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having a single seizure doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.
Treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for the majority of people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the U.S. following:
- Alzheimer’s disease
Its prevalence is greater than the following conditions combined:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
Despite how common it is and major advances in diagnosis and treatment, epilepsy is among the least understood of major chronic medical conditions, even though one in three adults knows someone with the disorder.