What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures (or after one seizure with a high risk for more) that were not caused by some known medical condition.
What Are Seizures?
Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury, genetics, immune, brain structure or metabolic cause, but most of the time the cause is unknown.
There are many different types of seizures. New terms to describe and classify seizures have been developed by the International League Against Epilepsy. This was done to make the names of seizures more accurate, less confusing, and more descriptive of what is happening.
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are a common disorder and have many different symptoms. PNES resemble, mimic or can appear outwardly like epileptic seizures, but their cause is psychological.
One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life and 1 in 26 will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their lifetime, making epilepsy the fourth most common neurological condition.
For about half people diagnosed with epilepsy, a specific cause of epilepsy may be found. Knowing the cause can give valuable information on what to expect over time. For example, some causes may be associated with
- Congenital conditions (Down’s syndrome; Angelman’s syndrome; tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis)
- Brain malformations
- Genetic factors
- Head trauma
However, in the other half of cases, there is no known cause. This is called “idiopathic” epilepsy
Learn more about types of epilepsy related to specific causes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing epilepsy and treating seizures successfully requires a team effort between you, your family and your health care team. It is important to consult with a neurologist who is trained to care for people with neurological disorders if you have epilepsy or seizures.
It may be easy to diagnose and control seizures and epilepsy in some people. For others, diagnosis may be difficult. An epileptologist is key to helping people when seizures and epilepsy are difficult to diagnose, or the person is not responding to standard therapy (medication).
Managing Your Epilepsy
We know that living with epilepsy is more than just knowing your type of seizures or what medicine to take. People must learn how to respond to seizures in a variety of situations — and be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. Living with seizures also means learning how to handle the way epilepsy affects your life including your social, emotional and physical well-being.
The best way to manage your seizures is to take a practical approach emphasizing preparation, prevention, and teamwork.
Download The Entire New To Seizures And Epilepsy Toolkit
As someone who was recently diagnosed or as a caregiver, hearing about epilepsy and seizures for the first time can be frightening and confusing. The following toolkit is a great resource and starting point for learning about what epilepsy is, what resources are available, how to make the most of doctors’ visits, and how to take control of seizures.