Epilepsy: recurring unprovoked seizures not caused by another treatable condition
Epilepsy, often called a seizure disorder, is a neurological condition caused by sudden, brief changes in the brain’s electrical balance. When there are excess electrical discharges in the brain, seizures occur. Seizures can alter awareness, physical movements, consciousness, or actions. Seizures generally last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders worldwide, affecting 65 million people, including over 3 million persons in the United States. Epilepsy is not contagious, a mental illness, or a sign of low intelligence. Epilepsy may be a chronic or lifelong condition.
A person could have a seizure at any time during their life. In fact, it is estimated that one in 10 people will have a seizure during their lifetime. Approximately one to two percent of the population has epilepsy/seizure disorders. About one-fifth of the 200,000 cases diagnosed each year occur in childhood. However, senior citizens are increasingly diagnosed with epilepsy/seizure disorders.
Epilepsy affects people from all communities, many of whom do not have any family history of seizures. Seventy percent of cases are classified as idiopathic epilepsy, a term used when a specific cause cannot be found. Among the remaining cases, the cause can be related to brain malformations, tumors or hemorrhage, metabolic/genetic conditions, infectious diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis, birth trauma, or high-risk pregnancies.
Epilepsy affects each person differently depending on age, types of seizures, response to treatment, and whether or not there are other health issues. Epilepsy is a spectrum condition with a wide range of seizure types, frequency of seizures, and seizure control, which vary from person to person.