What is epilepsy?

About 1 in 100 people worldwide have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disease characterized by the tendency to have recurrent seizures. It is sometimes called a seizure disorder.

A person has epilepsy if they:

  • Have had at least two unprovoked seizures, or
  • Have had one seizure and are very likely to have another, or
  • Are diagnosed with an epilepsy syndrome

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, which causes a disturbance in the way brain cells communicate with each other.  The kind of seizure a person has depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected by the electrical disturbance that produces seizures.

Different parts of the brain are specialized to do different things. There are parts of the brain that help us speak, understand those around us, and coordinate our movements. Our brains are involved in everything we experience, think, say, feel or do. Any one of these functions can be altered or disrupted during a seizure.. A seizure may take many different forms including a blank stare, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, or convulsions.

Seizures are usually brief and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The brain is very good at stopping seizure activity. Immediately afterwards, a person may have no lingering effects or they could experience temporary residual effects, such as muscle weakness or confusion, which resolve.

FACT: It is estimated that 1 out of 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime, but most people who have a single seizure do not have epilepsy.