Understanding epilepsy


Epilepsy is a chronic (meaning it lasts for a long time) condition that is defined by recurrent seizures.1 But it is more than just seizures. People with epilepsy can have memory problems, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.2

Doctors have many ways to describe epilepsy. They can explain where the seizure is happening in the brain—either partial-onset or generalizedPartial-onset means that the seizures are caused by a small, specific part of the brain that is not working right.1 Generalized means that the problem is more widespread.1

Childhood epilepsies can range in how severely they impact the child. Some epilepsies may lead to learning disorders.2 And still others, including Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), do not respond consistently to medical treatment.2 These epilepsies often have a severe impact on the child's social and intellectual development.2

Better understand epilepsy and LGS

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A seizure is caused by the brain cells and associated electrical activity not working properly.3 This can create uncontrolled muscle movements or loss of consciousness.3

Epilepsy is often diagnosed when a person has 2 or more unprovoked seizures 24 hours apart.4 In some cases, if the seizure causes a long-lasting change in the brain that could lead to other seizures, that one seizure is enough for a diagnosis of epilepsy.3

There are many different kinds of epilepsies, and several options for treatment. A complete evaluation—including medical history, MRI and EEG tests, and close observation—is needed to diagnose and treat epilepsy.1

NEXT: Diagnosing LGS


  • 1. Benbadis SR. Epileptic seizures and syndromes. Neurol Clin. 2001;19(2):251-270.
  • 2. van Rijckevorsel K. Cognitive problems related to epilepsy syndromes, especially malignant epilepsies. Seizure. 2006;15:227-234.
  • 3. Fisher RS, van Emde Boas W, Blume W, et al. Epileptic seizures and epilepsy: definitions proposed by the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) and the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE). Epilepsia. 2005;46(4):470-472.
  • 4. Shafer, PO. About epilepsy: the basics. Epilepsy Foundation Web site. http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics. Published January 2014. Accessed September 2, 2016.

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