Epilepsy Home > What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally, resulting in a sudden, brief change in how the brain works. The abnormal brain activity may cause a seizure, altering a person's consciousness, movement, or actions for a short time. This condition is sometimes referred to as a seizure disorder; however, it's possible to experience a seizure and not have epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a physical condition that occurs when there is a sudden, brief change in how the brain works. When brain cells are not working properly, a person's consciousness, movement, or actions may be altered for a short time. These physical changes are called epileptic seizures. Therefore, epilepsy is sometimes called a seizure disorder. This condition affects people in all nations and of all races.
Some people can experience a seizure and not have epilepsy. For example, many young children experience convulsions resulting from fevers. These febrile convulsions are one type of seizure. Other types of seizures not classified as epilepsy include those caused by an imbalance of body fluids or chemicals, or by alcohol or drug withdrawal. A single seizure does not mean that the person has epilepsy.
About 2 million Americans have epilepsy; of the 125,000 new cases that develop each year, up to 50 percent are children and adolescents.
Symptoms of EpilepsyAlthough the following symptoms are not necessarily indicators of epilepsy, it is wise to consult a doctor if you or a family member experiences one or more of the following:
- "Blackouts" or periods of confused memory
- Episodes of staring or unexplained periods of unresponsiveness
- Involuntary movement of arms and legs
- "Fainting spells" with incontinence or followed by excessive fatigue
- Odd sounds, distorted perceptions, or episodic feelings of fear that cannot be explained.