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What is epilepsy?

March 02, 2001

What is epilepsy?



In the United States, 2.3 million people have epilepsy, a neurological condition that makes them susceptible to seizures. There are 181,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

A seizure is a change in sensation, awareness or behavior brought about by a brief electrical disturbance in the brain. Seizures range from a momentary disruption of the senses to brief periods of unconsciousness or staring to convulsions.

Seizures are caused by a sudden change in how brain cells send electrical signals to each other.

What causes epilepsy?

It can be caused by anything that affects the brain. Often, no cause can be found.

Epilepsy is primarily treated with seizure-preventing medications. Surgery, diet - primarily in children - are options for some people for whom drugs don't control seizures. Another therapy - vagus nerve stimulation - has been available since July 1997 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Cyberonics' NCP system.

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- Epilepsy Foundation

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