What Is Epilepsy

Epilepsy sometimes called a seizure disorder, or (SEIZURES) is a chronic unpredictable neurological condition characterized by intermittent electrical and chemical disturbances in the brain that cause seizures which affect awareness, movement, or sensation. Epilepsy is the most prevalent serious neurological disorder of childhood, and second only to stroke as a condition that can strike at any stage of life.

Epilepsy is not contagious.

Epilepsy is not mental illness.

Epilepsy is not mental retardation

Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraint and from objects needlessly forced into their mouths.Of major chronic medical conditions, epilepsy is among the least understood, even though one in three adults knows someone with the disorder. Epilepsy is not a single entity, but a family of more than 40 syndromes that affects more than 3 million people in the U.S.and 50 million worldwide.

Who Has Epilepsy

Epilepsy does not discriminate. It can affect children, adults, seniors, men and woman, people of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and social classes at any time.  Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder in the United States after Alzheimers disease and stroke.It is equal in prevalence to cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease combined.
•More than 3 million people in the U.S. and more than 400,000 in Texas have Epilepsy.
•1 in 10 people will experience a seizure at some point in their lives.
•This year another 200,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy
•30 to 40% of people with epilepsy are severely affected and continue to have seizures despite treatment

Did You Know

•In 70% of cases the cause is unknown.

•Surveys of people with epilepsy show that their greatest concerns are societal expectations (stigma, discrimination, negative attitudes) coupled with issues of transportation, unemployment, and health & safety concerns.
•Many people still believe that you should place something in the mouth of someone having a seizure.
•Epilepsy strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can get it at any age.
• In the U.S., it currently affects more than 326,000 children under the age of fifteen.
•The number of cases in the elderly is beginning to soar as the baby boom generation approaches retirement age. Currently more than 570,000 adults age 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.


Epilepsy imposes an annual economic burden of $15.5 billion on the nation in associated health care costs and losses in employment, wages and productivity.  Epilepsy and its treatment produce a health-related quality of lifemeasured in days of activity limitation, pain, depression, anxiety, reduced vitality and insufficient sleep or restsimilar to arthritis, heart problems, diabetes and cancer.

Types of Seizures

The kind of seizure a person has depends on where the electrical disturbance takes place and how much of the brain is affected. It’s possible to have just one type of seizure, or more than one type.

Partial seizures start in one specific part or focal point of the brain.

Simple partial seizures You may experience unusual sensations or movements while fully conscious, such as:

• Uncontrolled stiffening or jerking of the arms and legs
• An odd taste, smell or pins and needles
• Feeling like you want to throw up
• Intense emotions – like fear, sadness or anger
• A "rising" feeling in your tummy

Complex partial seizures You are not fully conscious or lose consciousness during these seizures. They usually last from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Afterwards, you feel confused for a few minutes, have a headache or feel drowsy. You may experience:

• A dreamlike state – be unaware and unresponsive to questioning.
• Unusual, repetitive movements – like picking at your clothes.

Generalized seizures involve the entire brain. A secondarily generalized seizure begins in one part, then spreads throughout the brain.

Tonic-clonic (Grand mal)

You may cry out, fall down, become rigid, and lose consciousness. Your arms and legs may jerk, and breathing may become shallow. You may lose bladder or bowel control, drool or bite your tongue. This seizure lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Afterwards, you may feel confused or drowsy, need to sleep or have a headache.


​This brief seizure resembles daydreaming. It happens so fast that it often goes unnoticed. You look like you’re not paying attention. If this happens at school, you’ll miss information or instructions.


A sudden startle movement may cause you to drop objects.


This seizure usually lasts less than one minute. You may lose consciousness.
Your muscles stiffen, but there’s no jerking of arms or legs. If you’re standing, you may fall to the ground.


A sudden drop. Loss of muscle control makes you fall hard to the ground. This seizure lasts a very short time.

Epilepsy and Death

The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higherand the risk of sudden death is 24 times greaterthan that of the general population.  This year an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 will die of seizures and related causes, including status epilepticus (non-stop seizures), sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), drowning and other accidents.


The leading non-medical problem confronting people with epilepsy is discrimination in education, employment and social acceptance.  Some people with epilepsy do not even know they have it because theyve been told they have a seizure disorder instead. This unfortunate euphemism arose because of the stigma associated with epilepsy, a stigma that the Epilepsy Foundation and others have fought to dispel.

Diagnosis and Treatment

On average, it is 14 years between the onset of epilepsy and surgical intervention for seizures uncontrollable by medication. American physicians may be unaware of the safety and efficacy of epilepsy surgery, making it among the most underutilized of proven, effective therapeutic interventions in the field of medicine.  Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraint and from objects needlessly forced into their mouths.