What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy (often called a “seizure disorder”) is a neurological condition that causes a person to have recurring seizures. A doctor may diagnose you with epilepsy if you have one or more seizures, it is likely you will have more seizures, and the seizure is not directly caused by another medical condition (such as diabetes or an infection).

Epilepsy is a spectrum disorder. The impact of epilepsy varies from person to person. Epilepsy is not a disease, mental illness, or a sign of low intelligence. It is not contagious. Epilepsy is generally a chronic and/or lifelong condition.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can alter awareness, physical movements, emotions, or actions and generally last a few seconds to a few minutes. Seizures can take on many different forms and affect people very differently. There are many different types of seizures but they can be classified into two main categories: generalized and focal.

Generalized seizures mean that the entire brain is engaged in the seizure. The person may become unconscious or unresponsive. Generalized seizures may be convulsive or non-convulsive. Types include tonic-clonic, absence, myoclonic, and atonic seizures.

Focal seizures involve only certain parts of the brain. The person may remain aware, be confused, have automatic muscle movements, and/or experience changes in taste, sight, smell, or feelings. These seizures are classified by whether or not there is a change in awareness.