Epilepsy is a common condition
that causes repeated
seizures. The seizures are caused by bursts of
electrical activity in the brain that are not normal. Seizures may cause
problems with muscle control, movement, speech, vision, or awareness. They
usually don't last very long, but they can be scary. The good news is that
treatment usually works to control and reduce seizures.
is not a type of mental illness or
intellectual disability. It generally does not affect how well you
think or learn. You can't catch epilepsy from other people (like a cold), and
they can't catch it from you.
Often doctors do not know
what causes epilepsy. Less than half of people with epilepsy know why they have
Sometimes another problem, such as
a head injury, brain tumor, brain infection, or
stroke, causes epilepsy.
The main symptom of
epilepsy is repeated seizures that happen without warning. Without treatment,
seizures may continue and become worse and more frequent over time.
There are different kinds of seizures. You may have only one type of
seizure. Some people have more than one type. Depending on what kind of seizure
- Your senses may not work right. For example,
you may notice strange smells or sounds.
- You may lose control of
- You may fall down, and your body may twitch or
- You may stare off into space.
- You may faint (lose
Not everyone who has seizures has epilepsy. Sometimes
seizures happen because of an injury, illness, or another problem. In these
cases, the seizures stop when that problem improves or goes away.
Diagnosing epilepsy can
be hard. If you think that you or your child has had a seizure, your doctor
will first try to figure out if it was a seizure or something else with similar
symptoms. For example, a muscle tic or a migraine headache may look or feel
like a kind of seizure.
Your doctor will ask lots of questions to find out what happened to you just before, during, and right
after a seizure. Your doctor will also examine you and do some tests, such as
EEG. This information can help your doctor decide what
kind of seizures you have and if you have epilepsy.
Medicine controls seizures in
many people who have epilepsy. It may take time and careful, controlled
changes by you and your doctor to find the right combination, schedule, and
dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent
seizures and cause as few side effects as possible. After you find a
medicine that works for you, take it exactly as prescribed. The best way to
prevent more seizures is to keep the right amount of the medicine in your body.
To do that, you need to take the medicine in the right dose and at the right
times every day.
If medicine alone does not control your
seizures, your doctor may try one or more of these other treatments. They
- Surgery to remove damaged tissue in the brain
or the area of brain tissue where seizures begin.
- A special diet
called the ketogenic diet. With this diet, you eat a lot more fat and less
carbohydrate. This diet reduces seizures in some children who have
- A device called a vagus nerve stimulator. Your doctor
implants the device under your skin near your collarbone . It sends weak signals
to the vagus nerve in your neck and to your brain to help control seizures.