Epilepsy is a seizure disorder in which electrical signals in the brain misfire, causing temporary communication problems between nerve cells. Someone who gets recurrent seizures is thought to have epilepsy.
Anyone can get epilepsy, but over half of new diagnoses are in kids. Conditions that can lead to seizures include infectious illnesses, brain or blood vessel malformation, brain trauma, metabolic or chromosomal disorders, strokes, and brain tumors. More often than not, there's no identifiable cause for epilepsy, though it does tend to run in families.
Epilepsy symptoms can be mild to severe depending on the type of seizure. Someone with epilepsy might have temporary confusion, a loss of consciousness or awareness, a staring spell, or convulsions (intense, involuntary muscular contractions). Most people with epilepsy will feel the same symptoms during each of their episodes.
There's usually no need to call 911 if the person having a seizure is known to have epilepsy. However, someone who is injured, has another medical condition (like diabetes), or has an unusually long seizure or multiple seizures may need medical attention.
A variety of treatments are available to lessen the effects of epilepsy, including medications, special diets, medical devices, and even surgery. About two thirds of all kids with epilepsy outgrow their seizures by the time they're teens.
Epilepsy can be frightening, but with proper treatment and special safety precautions, people who have it can live normal lives.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Pocket Doc Mobile App|
|Maps and Locations (Mobile)|
|Programs & Services|
|For Health Professionals|
|For Patients & Families|
|Find a Doctor|