Skip to content

Epilepsy Health Center

Select An Article

Understanding Seizures and Epilepsy

Font Size

What Is a Seizure and What Is Epilepsy?

Seizures, abnormal movements or behavior due to unusual electrical activity in the brain, are a symptom of epilepsy. But not all people who appear to have seizures have epilepsy, a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures.

Non-epileptic seizures (called pseudoseizures) are not accompanied by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and may be caused by psychological issues or stress. However, non-epileptic seizures look like true seizures, which makes diagnosis more difficult. Normal EEG readings and lack of response to epileptic drugs are two clues they are not true epileptic seizures. These types of seizure may be treated with psychotherapy and psychiatric medications.

Recommended Related to Epilepsy

Epilepsy Treatments: Find the Right Medication

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes repeated episodes of unprovoked seizures. There is no cure for epilepsy, but medications may help keep symptoms under control. Epilepsy is almost always treated first with medication. Choosing the right one, however, can be challenging. There are at least 20 different drugs available to prevent seizures. Some have been around for decades. Many others have only been developed recently, and each drug comes with its own benefits and risks. Also, side effects...

Read the Epilepsy Treatments: Find the Right Medication article > >

Provoked seizures are single seizures that may occur as the result of trauma, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low blood sodium, high fever, or alcohol or drug abuse. Fever-related (or febrile) seizures may occur during infancy but are usually outgrown by age 6. After a careful evaluation to estimate the risk of recurrence, patients who suffer a single seizure may not need treatment.

Seizure disorder is a general term used to describe any condition in which seizures may be a symptom. Seizure disorder is a general term that it is often used in place of the term ''epilepsy.''

Who Is Affected by Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a relatively common condition, affecting 0.5% to 1% of the population. In the United States, about 2.5 million people have epilepsy and about 9% of Americans will have at least one seizure in their lifetimes.

What Causes Epilepsy?

Epilepsy occurs as a result of abnormal electrical activity originating in the brain. Brain cells communicate by sending electrical signals in an orderly pattern. In epilepsy, these electrical signals become abnormal, giving rise to an "electrical storm" that produces seizures. These storms may be within a specific part of the brain or be generalized, depending on the type of epilepsy.

Types of Epilepsy

Patients with epilepsy may experience more than one seizure type. This is because seizures are only symptoms. Therefore, it is essential that your neurologist diagnose your type of epilepsy, not just the type(s) of seizure you are having.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

human head and brain waves
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Grand mal seizure
How is each one different?
marijuana plant
CBD, a plant chemical, may cut down seizures.
prescription bottle
Which medication is right for you?
Seizures Driving
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Graces Magic Diet
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
first aid kit
Caring Child Epilepsy
Making Home Safe
epilepsy monitoring

WebMD Special Sections