What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic (long-lasting) medical condition marked by recurrent (repeating) epileptic seizures. An epileptic seizure is a change in the function of the brain caused by abnormal or excessive electrical discharges from brain cells. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurologic (nervous system) disorders, affecting up to one percent of people in the United States.

There are different types of seizures, different types of epilepsy syndromes, and different causes of epilepsy. For example, both brain tumors and stroke can cause seizures and lead to chronic epilepsy. Some of the causes can be diagnosed and treated with medicines, and some have to be treated with surgery.

What are some of the causes of epilepsy?

About 65 percent of new epilepsy cases have no obvious cause. Of the rest, the more common reasons include stroke, congenital abnormalities (those we are born with), brain tumors, trauma, and infection. It is important to determine the cause to help guide treatment.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/17/2014.


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