Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder (neurological disorder) in which nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of consciousness.
Seizure symptoms can vary widely. 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 26 people in the United States will develop a seizure disorder. Nearly 10 percent of individuals may have a single unprovoked seizure. However, a single 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 with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for about 80 percent of people with epilepsy. Some children with epilepsy may also outgrow their condition with age.
Find out why Mayo Clinic is the best place for your care.
Nov. 22, 2014
- Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm. Accessed Sept. 25, 2014.
- Schachter SC. Evaluation of the first seizure in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 26, 2014.
- 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 Sept. 26, 2014.
- Schachter SC. Overview of the management of epilepsy in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 26, 2014.
- 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.
- Willie, J. et al. Real-time magnetic resonance-guided stereotactic laser amygdalohippocampotomy for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Neurosurgery. 2014;74:58.
- Curing the epilepsies: The promise of research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy_research.htm#Section2_2 Accessed Sept. 26, 2014.
- Chatman M, et al. Stereotactic-guided laser ablation of epileptogenic abnormalities in intractable focal epilepsy: Preliminary results. Neurology. 2013;80:P04.196. http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/80/1_MeetingAbstracts/P04.196. Accessed Sept. 26, 2014.
- Thurman DJ, et al. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: Assessing the public health burden. Epilepsia. In press. Accessed Sept. 26, 2014.
- Epilepsy across the spectrum: Promoting health and understanding. Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2012/Epilepsy/epilepsy_rb.pdf. Accessed Sept. 26, 2014
News, connections and conversations for your health