What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition involving the brain that makes you more susceptible to having recurrent, unprovoked seizures. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. Almost 3 million Americans live with epilepsy.

Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in your brain can cause a seizure. This includes a high fever, low or high blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal or intoxication, or a concussion. Under these circumstances, anyone can have one or more seizures. However, when you have two or more unprovoked seizures, you are considered to have epilepsy.

There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including an imbalance of nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, tumors, strokes, and brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these. In the majority of cases, there may be no detectable cause for epilepsy.

Some people with epilepsy can experience improvements in their symptoms by taking medications. Others who have intractable epilepsy do not achieve seizure relief with medications and may need treatments like surgery or brain devices.

What is a seizure?

The brain is the center that controls and regulates all voluntary and involuntary responses in your body. It consists of nerve cells that communicate with each other through electrical activity.

A seizure occurs when part of your brain generates a burst of abnormal electrical signals that temporarily interrupts normal electrical brain function. The part that generates the abnormal activity is called the seizure focus.

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