DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder (neurological disorder) in which the nerve cell activity in your brain is disturbed, causing a seizure during which you experience abnormal behavior, symptoms and sensations, including loss of consciousness.
Seizure symptoms vary. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs.
About 1 in 100 people in the United States may have an unprovoked seizure once in life. However, a solitary seizure doesn't mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.
Even mild seizures may require treatment because they can be dangerous during activities such as driving or swimming. Treatment, which generally includes medications or sometimes surgery, may eliminate or reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. Some children with epilepsy even outgrow the condition with age.
- Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Schachter SC. Evaluation of the first seizure in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Is an emergency room visit needed? Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/firstaid/is-an-emergency-room-visit-needed.cfm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
- Injuries from seizures. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/healthrisks/injuriesfromseizures.cfm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
- Fact sheet on seizure-related causes of death and preventative measures. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/resources/newsroom/pressreleases/Fact-Sheet-on-Seizure-Related-Causes-of-Death-and-Preventative-Measures.cfm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
- Schachter SC. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Frequently asked questions. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/faq.cfm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Jan. 28, 2013.
- Hirsch LJ, et al. Neuroimaging in the evaluation of seizures and epilepsy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Karceski S. Initial treatment of epilepsy in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Schachter SC. Overview of the management of epilepsy in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 18, 2013.
- Wetjen NM, et al. Subtraction ictal single-photon emission computed tomography coregistered to magnetic resonance imaging in evaluating the need for repeated epilepsy surgery. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2006;105:71.
- Noe KH. Seizures: Diagnosis and management in the outpatient setting. Seminars in Neurology. 2011;31:54.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Surgical treatment for seizures. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2004.
- O'Brien TJ, et al. Subtraction SPECT co-registered to MRI improves postictal SPECT localization of seizure foci. Neurology. 1999;52:137.
- Lyons MK. Deep brain stimulation: Current and future clinical applications. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2011;86:662.
- U.S. News best hospitals 2012-2013. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings. Accessed Jan. 25, 2013.
- First responders. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/livingwithepilepsy/firstresponders/. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Staying healthy. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/livingwithepilepsy/healthandwellness/stayinghealthy/index.cfm. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Transportation. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/livingwithepilepsy/parentsandcaregivers/caregivers/transportation.cfm. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- First aid. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/firstaid/index.cfm. Accessed Jan. 31, 2013.
- Finding employment. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/livingwithepilepsy/employmenttopics/findingemployment.cfm. Accessed Feb. 4, 2013.
- Romanelli P, et al. Non-resective surgery and radiosurgery for treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy. Epilepsy Research. 2012;99:193.
- Worrell GA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 29, 2013.