Understanding your diagnosis means having a good grasp of the types of seizures you have. Your doctor may also use a name that describes the type of epilepsy (called an epilepsy syndrome) that fits your situation. An epilepsy syndrome is just another way of describing your seizures along with other signs and symptoms of your epilepsy.

While most seizures are treated easily with medicines, sometimes emergencies can develop that require more help, either at home or in the hospital. Knowing what a seizure emergency is and how to recognize and treat it early can help prevent serious problems.

Seizures can occur in anyone at any time. In many people, seizures develop without warning. In others, certain factors or 'warning signs' may lend clues to whether a person may be having seizures and need further medical tests.

It's important to clarify a few definitions first...

Seizures are sudden episodes of excessive discharge of electrical activity in the brain that usually cause a change in behavior. Seizures may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but most seizures occur for no known reason. There are different types of seizures and what occurs during an event will depend on the area of brain involved.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system. The term seizure disorder is often used to mean the same thing. Epilepsy usually is diagnosed after a person has had two or more seizures that are not provoked or caused by a specific medical illness. When epilepsy is present, a person is said to have a tendency to recurring seizures. While seizures can be caused by injury to the brain or family tendencies, the majority of times, there is no known cause of epilepsy.


Authored by: Steven C. Schachter, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN | Joseph I. Sirven, MD on 11/2013