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Epilepsy is a chronic disorder, the hallmark of which is recurrent, unprovoked seizures.


The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but often the cause is completely unknown.


Many people with epilepsy have more than one type of seizure and may have other symptoms of neurological problems as well.

Partial seizures start in one part of the brain. The electrical disturbances may then move to other parts of the brain or they may stay in one area until the seizure is over.

Generalized seizures involve electrical disturbances that occur all over the brain at the same time. These include several types of seizures including absence seizures (also called petit mal), tonic-clonic seizures (also called grand mal), and myoclonic epilepsies.


A person is diagnosed with epilepsy if they have two unprovoked seizures (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more) that were not caused by some known and reversible medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar. Tests may include:

  • A neurological exam of your behavior, motor abilities and mental function
  • A blood sample
  • A sample of cerebrospinal fluid
  • An electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • A CT scan
  • An MRI
  • A PET scan
  • Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT)


Not everyone who has one seizure will have another one, and because a seizure can be an isolated incident, your doctor may not decide to start treatment until you've had more than one. If your doctor recommends treatment, it may include medication, surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, responsive neurostimulation, or deep brain stimulation.

Managing Your Condition

  • Take medication as prescribed.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.

Seizure First Aid