Epilepsy, characterized by seizures, is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system.
- It affects people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds.
- Nearly 3 million Americans are living with epilepsy.
- Every year, 200,000 Americans will develop seizures and epilepsy for the first time.
- Epilepsy can develop at any time of life, but especially in early childhood and old age.
- Epilepsy is a neurological condition making people susceptible to seizures. A seizure is a change in sensation, awareness, or behavior brought about by a brief electrical disturbance in the brain.
Seizures vary from a momentary disruption of the senses, to short periods of unconsciousness or staring spells, to convulsions. Some people have just one type of seizure. Others have more than one type.
Although they look different, all seizures are caused a sudden change in how the cells of the brain send electrical signals to each other.
Epilepsy is a physical disorder, not a mental disorder. It can be caused by anything that affects the brain, including tumors and strokes. Sometimes epilepsy is inherited. Often, no cause can be found.
Doctors primarily treat epilepsy with seizure-preventing medicines. Although seizure medications are not a cure, they control seizures in the majority of people with epilepsy.
Surgery, diet (primarily in children), or electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve, a large nerve leading into the brain, may be options if medications fail to control seizures. Several drugs (called antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drugs) are prescribed to prevent seizures. Many factors are involved in choosing the right seizure drug. The goal of treatment is to stop seizures without side effects from the medicines.
While there is currently no cure for epilepsy, promising research toward new treatment development and a cure is being conducted every day. Money raised for the National Walk for Epilepsy provides funding for this research, as well as support for programs and services for people with epilepsy across the country.