What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. Neurons normally generate electrochemical impulses that act on other neurons, glands, and muscles to produce human thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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. During a seizure, neurons may fire as many as 500 times a second, much faster than normal. In some people, this happens only occasionally; for others, it may happen up to hundreds of times a day.

Causes and Symptoms:

Epilepsy is a nervous system problem that causes seizures. It can develop at any age.  

A seizure can be a symptom of another health problem, such as:

  • A rapidly increasing fever (fever seizure).
  • An extremely low blood sugar level in a person who has diabetes.
  • Damage to the brain from a stroke, brain surgery, or a head injury.
  • Problems that have been present since birth (congenital problems).
  • Withdrawal from alcohol, prescription medicine, or illegal drugs.
  • An infection, such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • A brain tumor or structural defect in the brain, such as an aneurysm.
  • Parasitic infections, such as tapeworm or toxoplasmosis.