Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Epilepsy Health Center

Font Size

Epilepsy - What Happens

Although epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders involving the nervous system, experts often cannot explain exactly how or why the disease develops and how or why the abnormal electrical activity in the brain occurs. Epilepsy does not always follow a predictable course. It can develop at any age and may get worse over time or get better.

Although uncommon, epilepsy that begins in a specific area of the brain may eventually affect another part of the brain. Some types of childhood epilepsy disappear after the child reaches the teenage years. Other types may continue for life. Epilepsy that started after a head injury may disappear after several years or may last the rest of your life.

Recommended Related to Epilepsy

Understanding Epilepsy -- Symptoms

 Seizures are the basic indicator of epilepsy. They vary widely: Staring straight ahead, repetitive swallowing, and lapsing into complete immobility for a few seconds characterize absence (petit mal) seizures, which can recur many times in a day. Tonic/clonic (grand mal) seizures, which usually last several minutes, typically begin with a loss of consciousness and a fall, followed by rigidity, then jerking motions and incontinence of urine. After the seizure ends, there is usually a period...

Read the Understanding Epilepsy -- Symptoms article > >

There is no cure for epilepsy. But treatment can control epileptic seizures, sometimes preventing them from ever occurring again.

Quality of life

Epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures can put limitations on your independence, self-esteem, and quality of life. With epilepsy, you may have trouble getting or keeping a driver's license. If you become pregnant, complications can occur. Your career choices may be limited. Some people with epilepsy face discrimination at work or school due to other people's fears and misconceptions about this condition.

The good news is that proper treatment may allow you to control seizures, which can lead to improved quality of life and allow you to better cope with the disorder.

Finding out you have epilepsy can be hard. You may not be able to do some of the things you used to take for granted (such as driving a car). Epilepsy is also a disease that can be hard to treat for some people, especially at first. You may need to try many different types of medicines before you find one that works just right. All of these things may make you feel sad or angry. It may help you to talk to a psychologist or counselor if you are feeling bad about having epilepsy.

Concerns about mental health or intelligence

Epilepsy does not cause and is not a form of mental illness. And in general it does not affect your ability to think and learn. Most people with epilepsy have normal intelligence. Children with epilepsy may have a hard time performing in school, but this is usually not the result of below-normal intelligence. Frequent absence seizures, for instance, may explain why a child seems to "zone out" or not pay attention during class. Some medicines used to control seizures may affect a child's ability to stay focused at school.

A few, rare childhood epilepsy syndromes are exceptions to this in that they are typically associated with reduced intelligence, delayed physical and mental development, and other problems. These include infantile spasms (West syndrome), Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Rasmussen syndrome, among others. Tests, such as neuropsychological tests, can help your doctor find out if a problem in the brain is affecting your child's ability to reason, concentrate, solve problems, or remember.

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 26, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Grand mal seizure
Slideshow
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 
Epilepsy Causes
Article
First Aid Seizures
Article
 

Seizures Driving
Article
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Article
 
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
Article
Graces Magic Diet
VIDEO
 

Pets Improve Your Health
SLIDESHOW
Caring Child Epilepsy
Article
 
Making Home Safe
Article
Epilepsy Surgery Cure
VIDEO