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Epilepsy: Introduction

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which the nerves in the brain communicate abnormally with each other. This results in a variety of types of recurring seizures. Epilepsy, also called a seizure disorder, is a common condition, affecting about three million people in the U.S., according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

Epilepsy occurs when a surge of electrical signals from one cluster of nerve cells, called neurons, temporarily overwhelm other neurons in the brain. This results in different types of epilepsy and a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the area of the brain affected and how much of the brain is affected.

The there are many types and sub types of epilepsy. These include grand mal seizures, petit mal seizures, simple partial seizures, and complex partial seizures. There is also a type of disorder called nonepileptic seizures, in which there is no abnormal brain activity.

The cause of epilepsy is unknown in about half of the people with the disorder. Identifiable causes include head injuries, dementia, and medical conditions and diseases that can cause brain damage, such as stroke, meningitis, cerebral palsy, and autism. There is also a hereditary link to some forms of epilepsy.

The symptoms of epilepsy vary greatly depending on the type of seizure, the individual person, and other factors. The symptom of jerking, convulsive seizures is not present in all types of epilepsy. Symptoms may also include loss of consciousness or unusual emotions, sensations, and behaviors. For more information on symptoms, refer to symptoms of epilepsy.

Epilepsy can lead to potentially serious complications, especially if it is left untreated or not managed consistently. These include injuries to the head and body from falling and convulsive seizure activity or from car accidents caused by a seizure. They also include drowning during a seizure. Epilepsy can also endanger a pregnancy and the mother as well. In addition, taking certain anti-epileptic medications may cause birth defects.

It is also not unusual for people with epilepsy to develop behavioral, emotional, or social problems due to the stigma associated with the conditions and the potentially embarrassing seizures.

Life threatening complications of epilepsy include status epilepticus, which increases the risk of permanent brain damage and death, and sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. Regular medical care and good control of seizures decrease the risk of developing these complications.

Making a diagnosis of epilepsy begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical and neurological examination. It also includes electroencephalogram, which examines the brain's electrical activity. Imaging test may include CT scan, MRI, and a lumbar puncture, which can help to identify or rule-out certain causes of epilepsy.

A diagnosis of some types of epilepsy can easily be missed or delayed because some symptoms are so subtle and can be easily overlooked. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of epilepsy.

There is no cure for epilepsy, although some children may grow out of some forms of the disorders. Most people with epilepsy can be effectively treated and enjoy living normal, productive lives. Treatment generally involves anti-epileptic medications, treating underlying conditions, and other therapies. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of epilepsy....more »

Epilepsy: Misdiagnosis

Symptoms of some types of epilepsy, such as jerking convulsions of the body, are dramatic and straightforward and usually lead to prompt medical care and a diagnosis. However, symptoms of some forms of epilepsy, such as petit mal seizures, can be subtle and easily overlooked. These types of symptoms can easily be mistaken for "daydreaming" behavior. Behaviors ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Epilepsy:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Epilepsy. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Epilepsy: Causes | Symptom Checker »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Epilepsy

Home medical tests possibly related to Epilepsy:

Causes of Types of Epilepsy:

Review causes of types of Epilepsy in more specific categories:

Review causes of more specific types of Epilepsy:

Epilepsy: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Epilepsy, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

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Epilepsy Treatments

Epilepsy is not curable, but it can be effectively treated in most people, allowing them to live productive, active lives. The goal of treatment is to prevent or control seizures as much as possible. This helps to reduce the chance of developing serious complications, such as status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. This also minimizes other problems with injuries ...Epilepsy Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Epilepsy may include:

Review further information on Epilepsy Treatments.

Epilepsy: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Epilepsy may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Epilepsy

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Epilepsy:

Epilepsy: Deaths

Read more about causes and Epilepsy deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Epilepsy

Epilepsy misdiagnosed as schizophrenia: The book "Preventing Misdiagnosis of Women" reports on a case of a woman diagnosed with more »

Various mental health symptoms caused by rare epilepsy: Temporal lobe epilepsy is a less common form of epilepsy that does not have the typical physical seizures. Patients can more »

Rare seizure-less epilepsy misdiagnosed as various conditions: A complex partial seizure disorder, such as temporal lobe epilepsy can be misdiagnosed as various conditions. Some of the possible misdiagnoses include depression, bipolar disorder, more »

Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as more »

Epilepsy: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Epilepsy: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Article Excerpts about Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Epilepsy Information Page: NINDS)

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain... (Source: excerpt from NINDS Epilepsy Information Page: NINDS)

Definitions of Epilepsy:

Brain disorder characterized by recurring excessive neuronal discharge, exhibited by transient episodes of motor, sensory, or psychic dysfunction, with or without unconsciousness or convulsive movements.
- (Source - Diseases Database)

A disorder of the central nervous system characterized by loss of consciousness and convulsions
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Brain disorder characterized by recurring excessive neuronal discharge, exhibited by transient episodes of motor, sensory, or psychic dysfunction, with or without unconsciousness or convulsive movements.
- (Source - CRISP)

Detailed list of causes of Epilepsy

The list below shows some of the causes of Epilepsy mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Epilepsy?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Epilepsy. Of the 132 causes of Epilepsy that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 1 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 2 causes are "common" diseases
  • 4 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 0 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 4 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 124 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Epilepsy:

The following list of conditions have 'Epilepsy' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Epilepsy or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Epilepsy:

The following list of medical conditions have Epilepsy or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.





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Causes of Epilepsy Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Epilepsy based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    What are the alternative names for Epilepsy:

    Epilepsy, primary
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Epilepsy:

    Medical Conditions associated with Epilepsy:

    Seizures (2418 causes), Movement symptoms (6001 causes), Muscle spasms (929 causes), Spasms (2183 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Muscle symptoms (7251 causes), Musculoskeletal symptoms (6264 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes)

    Symptoms related to Epilepsy:

    Seizures (2418 causes), Clonus (23 causes), Tics (20 causes), Spasms (2183 causes), Syncope (2084 causes), Fainting (1326 causes), Fits (2418 causes), Frothing, Rigidity (96 causes), Convulsions (570 causes), Antiepileptic drugs

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Epilepsy

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Epilepsy and many other medical conditions:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Epilepsy:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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