When it comes to epilepsy, knowledge is power. Whether you’ve had epilepsy for years or you are newly diagnosed, the more you know the more you can do to try to control epilepsy and live life on your terms.

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Learning About Epilepsy and Seizures


About Epilepsy


What you need to know

When it comes to epilepsy, knowledge is power. Whether you’ve had epilepsy for years or you are newly diagnosed, the more you know the more you can do to try to control epilepsy and live life on your terms.


What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder sometimes called a seizure disorder because seizures are the primary symptom. But a single seizure is not necessarily a sign of epilepsy. Tests such as brain scans can determine if a person has epilepsy.


What is a seizure?

A seizure is the result of a change in the normal electrical activity in the brain. Depending on the type of seizure—there are many—it can last for a few seconds or minutes, manifesting in various ways, with symptoms ranging from rapid blinking and staring at nothing in particular to loss of consciousness, falling, and muscle jerks. There are two major categories of seizure: generalized and partial onset, also known as focal.


  • Generalized seizures happen when both sides of the brain are affected. Some examples include:
    • Absence seizures (also known as petit mal seizures), which can cause rapid blinking or staring into space
    • Tonic-clonic seizures (also known as grand mal seizures), which can cause involuntarily crying out, loss of consciousness, falling, and convulsive muscle jerks or spasms
  • Partial onset seizures happen when one area of the brain is affected. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 60% of people with epilepsy experience partial onset seizures, which include:
    • Simple partial seizures, which can cause twitching or the sense of an odor or taste that’s not actually there
    • Complex partial seizures, which can impair consciousness so a person may appear dazed or confused, possibly unable to respond to others for a few minutes
    • Secondary generalized partial seizures, which can occur when a partial seizure spreads to both sides of the brain, becoming a generalized seizure

Who gets epilepsy?

People with epilepsy experience repeated seizures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 2.9 million people in the United States are affected by epilepsy. And according to a 2011 study, one in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes seizures, which are disruptions of the electrical communication between neurons. Following tests, a person is said to have epilepsy after he or she has experienced two or more unprovoked seizures, at least 24 hours apart.


What is the difference between seizures and epilepsy?

Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy, but having a seizure once does not necessarily mean a person has epilepsy. A single seizure can result from other medical problems, such as high fevers, low blood sugar, very high blood sugar in diabetics, an imbalance of salt in the blood, eclampsia during or after pregnancy, and sleep deprivation.




Created in 2006 by UCB, a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on immunology and neurology research and treatment, EpilepsyAdvocate is a community of people living with epilepsy, their family members, and their caregivers.



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