What is epilepsy?



Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes a tendency for recurrent seizures. Seizures are symptoms of an underlying dysfunction in the brain. These symptoms can take many different forms ranging from a convulsion in which the person loses consciousness, stiffens, and begins to shake in the extremities to a brief starring spell during which the person is not aware of what is happening. The part of the brain affected determines how the symptoms of a seizure will appear.

Epilepsy affects approximately 3 million people in the United States with approximately 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. In North Carolina, approximately 80,000 people have epilepsy. One in ten people will have a seizure at some point in their life. It is the most common neurological condition in children and second only to stroke in adults.


• Epilepsy affects an estimated 2.3 million people in the United States
• One in twenty-six children and one in one hundred adults have epilepsy
• Approximately 300,000 people in the US have a first convulsion each year
• Any one of us, at any age, at any time can develop epilepsy
• Older adults account for approximately 25% of new cases of epilepsy each year
• One in ten persons will have a seizure in their lifetime
• There are many different types of seizures, ranging from brief lapses of consciousness to full convulsions
• Approximately 60% of persons with epilepsy respond to the first medicine, 15% to the second medicine, with about 25% of persons whose seizures remain uncontrolled
• Seizures have many different causes, head trauma, infection, stroke, congenital brain problems, heredity, to name just a few
• In 60-70% of the cases of seizures, the cause is not known
• While medicine is the most common treatment, seizure surgery may be an option
• One of the biggest problems for people with epilepsy is the public’s lack of understanding about their disorder
• Most people with epilepsy lead normal lives, have jobs, get married and have children
• Some of our most famous people in history had epilepsy---Julius Caesar, Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Harriet Tubman, Alexander the Great, Alfred Nobel to name a few