What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that causes people to have repeated seizures. A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. These seizures are not caused by another underlying cause, such as a high fever.  

Epilepsy can affect people in very different ways. This is because there are many causes and many different kinds of seizures. Some people may have multiple types of seizures or other medical conditions in addition to epilepsy. These factors play a major role in determining both the severity of the person’s condition and the impact it has on his or her life.  

The way a seizure looks depends on the type of seizure a person is experiencing.  Some seizures can look like staring spells. Other seizures can cause a person to collapse, shake, and become unaware of what’s going on around them.

Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain. Many times the cause is unknown. Some causes include:

  • Stroke

  • Brain tumor

  • Traumatic brain injury or head injury

  • Central nervous system infection

A person with epilepsy is not contagious and cannot give epilepsy to another person.

Having seizures and epilepsy can also affect one's safety, relationships, work, driving and so much more. How epilepsy is perceived or how people are treated (stigma) often is a bigger problem than the seizures.

Information via the Epilepsy Foundation of America and the Centers for Disease Control.