Epilepsy
(Seizure Disorder)

Epilepsy facts*

*Epilepsy Facts by

  • Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.
  • Epilepsy is not contagious and is not caused by mental illness or mental retardation. Sometimes severe seizure can cause brain damage, but most seizures do not seem to have a detrimental effect on the brain.
  • Epilepsy has many possible causes, from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development. Genetics may also play a role.
  • Epilepsy can also develop as a result of brain damage from other disorders including brain tumors, alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Epilepsy is also associated with a variety of developmental and metabolic disorders.
  • Other causes include head injury, prenatal injury, and poisoning.
  • Triggers for seizures include lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, stress, or hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle.
  • There are many types of seizures, divided into two major categories: focal seizures and generalized seizures.
  • Focal seizure symptoms include unusual feelings or sensations that can take many forms, such as sudden and unexplainable emotions, nausea, or hallucinations
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  • Generalized seizure symptoms may cause loss of consciousness, falls, or massive muscle spasms.
  • Seizures themselves are not necessarily epilepsy.
  • There are many different kinds of epilepsy syndromes, which are frequently described by their symptoms or by where in the brain they originate. Each has its own characteristic set of symptoms.
  • There are many different ways to treat epilepsy including medications, surgery to treat the epilepsy or to treat underlying conditions, implanted devices, and diet.
  • Most people with epilepsy lead full, active lives, but they are at risk for two life-threatening conditions: status epilepticus (when a person has an abnormally prolonged seizure or does not fully regain consciousness between seizures), and sudden unexplained death.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2014

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Seizure Symptoms

How to Assist the Victim

Seizures occur because the brain becomes irritated and an "electrical storm" occurs. This "electrical storm" affects the normal connections between brain cells, causing abnormal brain function.