Fact: 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their life time
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures (convulsions) over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior.
The human brain is the source of human epilepsy. Although the symptoms of a seizure may affect any part of the body, the electrical events that produce the symptoms occur in the brain. The location of that event, how it spreads and how much of the brain is affected, and how long it lasts all have profound effects. These factors determine the character of a seizure and its impact on the individual.
Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person's brain. Many times the cause is unknown. Some causes include:
- Brain tumor.
- Traumatic brain injury or head injury.
- Central nervous system infection
- A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain
- A seizure usually affects how a person appears or acts for a short time
- Many different things can occur during a seizure. Whatever the brain and body can do normally can also occur during a seizure
What happens in the brain during a seizure?
- The electrical activity is caused by complex chemical changes that occur in nerve cells.
- Brain cells either excite or inhibit (stop) other brain cells from sending messages. Usually there is a balance of cells that excite and those that can stop these messages. However, when a seizure occurs, there may be too much or too little activity, causing an imbalance between exciting and stopping activity. The chemical changes can lead to surges of electrical activity that cause seizures.
- Seizures are not a disease in themselves. Instead, they are a symptom of many different disorders that can affect the brain. Some seizures can hardly be noticed, while others are totally disabling.
- Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy
- Idiopathic Partial Epilepsy
- Symptomatic Generalized Epilepsy
- Symptomatic Partial Epilepsy
What can cause a seizure?
- Specific time of day or night
- Sleep deprivation – overtired, not sleeping well, not getting enough sleep
- At times of fevers or other illnesses
- Flashing bright lights or patterns
- Alcohol or drug use
- Associated with menstrual cycle (women) or other hormonal changes
- Not eating well, low blood sugar
- Specific foods, excess caffeine or other products that may aggravate seizures
- Use of certain medications
What is the treatment for epilepsy?
Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 70 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. Some drugs are more effective for specific types of seizures. An individual with seizures, particularly those that are not easily controlled, may want to see a neurologist specifically trained to treat epilepsy. In some children, special diets may help to control seizures when medications
are either not effective or cause serious side effects.
There is no known cure for epilepsy. However, about 70% of people with epilepsy have their seizures controlled with medication. In some cases, epilepsy surgery offers the possibility of a reduction or elimination of the seizures. Depending
on the type of epilepsy, some people will outgrow their epilepsy.
**Information on this page taken directly from Epilepsy Foundation, Epilepsy Society, and NORD**
Want to learn more?
The following are organizations and/or websites dedicated to providing information and education surrounding Epilepsy. These organizations are dedicated to research, education, awareness, and/or support. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.
Charlie Foundation to Help Cure Pediatric Epilepsy
Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE)
Hope For Hypothalamic Hamartomas
Intractable Childhood Epilepsy