What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.

Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication, although surgery may be considered in difficult cases.

The diagnosis of epilepsy requires that the seizures be unprovoked, with the implication that the provocant is assumed to be something obviously harmful. However, in some epilepsy syndromes, the provocant can reasonably be considered to be part of normal daily life.

Examples of these normal provocants include reading, hot water on the head, hyperventilation, and flashing or flickering lights.

There are many different epilepsy syndromes, each presenting with its own unique combination of seizure type, typical age of onset, EEG findings, treatment, and prognosis.

Epilepsy is usually treated with medication prescribed by a physician; primary caregivers, neurologists, and neurosurgeons all frequently care for people with epilepsy.

In some cases the implantation of a stimulator of the vagus nerve, or a special diet can be helpful. Neurosurgical operations for epilepsy can be palliative, reducing the frequency or severity of seizures; or, in some patients, an operation can be curative.

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