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Epilepsy
Basic Information

Epilepsy

What is Epilepsy?

The epilepsies are a spectrum of brain disorders ranging from severe, life-threatening and disabling, to ones that are much more benign. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. The epilepsies have many possible causes and there are several types of seizures. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity—from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development—can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, changes in important features of brain cells called channels, or some combination of these and other factors. Having a single seizure as the result of a high fever (called febrile seizure) or head injury does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. ...

 
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What is epilepsy and how is it treated?

  • In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.
  • Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, changes in important features of brain cells called channels, or some combination of these and other factors.
  • Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy.
  • A measurement of electrical activity in the brain and brain scans such as magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography are common diagnostic tests for epilepsy.
  • Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 70 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques.
  • While epilepsy cannot be cured, for some people the seizures can be controlled with medication, diet, devices, and/or surgery.
  • Scientists are studying the underlying causes of the epilepsies in children, adults, and the elderly, as well as seizures that occur following brain trauma, stroke, and brain tumors. Ongoing research is focused on developing new model systems that can be used to more quickly screen potential new treatments for the epilepsies.

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