Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has it. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. Electroencephalograms (EEGs) and brain scans are common tests used to diagnose the disorder.
How Is It Treated?Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vagus nerve stimulator for use in people with seizures that are not well-controlled by medication.
While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. One study found that children with idiopathic epilepsy, or epilepsy with an unknown cause, had a 68 to 92 percent chance of becoming seizure-free by 20 years after their diagnosis.
The odds of becoming seizure-free are not as good for adults or for children with severe epilepsy syndromes, but it is nonetheless possible that seizures may decrease or even stop over time. This is more likely if the epilepsy has been well-controlled by medication or if the person has had epilepsy surgery.
Most seizures do not cause brain damage. It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioral and emotional problems, sometimes the consequence of embarrassment and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and other social settings.
For many people with this condition, the risk of seizures restricts their independence (some states refuse driver's licenses to people with epilepsy) and recreational activities.
People with epilepsy are at special risk for two life-threatening conditions: status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death.
Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant, but they should discuss their epilepsy and the medications they are taking with their doctors. Women with epilepsy have a 90 percent or better chance of having a normal, healthy baby.