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Neuro Library
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What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system and results in seizures. Seizures are sudden, uncontrollable events that occur when the brain sends out abnormal electrical signals to the body. Usually, this condition can be partially or completely controlled, and, with proper treatment, epilepsy doesn't have to stop patients from enjoying life.

What Causes Epilepsy?

Different epilepsies are due to a variety of underlying causes, many of which can be complex and sometimes hard to identify. A person might start having seizures because they have one or more of the following:

  • An imbalance of nerve-signaling brain chemicals (neurotransmitters)
  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage from illness or injury
  • Genetics

What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?

Common symptoms include:

  • Temporary confusion
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Staring off into space
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Unresponsiveness to questions or instructions
  • Loss of bladder control

How can I help if someone is experiencing a seizure?

It is most important to provide general care and comfort, and ensure the person stays safe. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Prevent injury by moving objects out of the way.
  • Support their head if on the ground.
  • Do not hold the person down with force.
  • Avoid placing anything in their mouth.
  • Ensure normal breathing is occurring.
  • Be sensitive and supportive.

When should 9-1-1 emergency medical services be contacted?

Knowing when to seek professional emergency support is important. Call 9-1-1 if:

  • A seizure lasts five minutes or longer.
  • One seizure occurs right after another without the person regaining consciousness between seizures.
  • Seizures occur closer together than usual for that person.
  • Breathing becomes difficult or the person appears to be choking.
  • The seizure occurs in water.
  • Injury may have occurred.
  • The person asks for medical help.
Source: Epilepsy Foundation