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All About Epilepsy

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What is Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disease where nerve cells don’t signal properly, which causes seizures. Seizures are uncontrolled bursts of electrical activities that change sensations, behaviors, awareness and muscle movements. Although epilepsy can’t be cured, many treatment options are available. Up to 70% of people with epilepsy can manage the disease with medications. They simply need to find the appropriate care.


Epilepsy affects over 65,000 people in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, over 185,000 people in Ohio, over 3.4 million people in the United States, and over 65 million people world wide. 

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What is the Medical Definition of Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain defined by any of the following conditions:

  1. At least two unprovoked seizures occurring more than 24 hours apart.

  2. One unprovoked seizure and a probability of further seizures similar to the general recurrence risk after two unprovoked seizures (approximately 75% or more).

  3. At least two seizures in a setting of reflex epilepsy.

After the second unprovoked seizure, a person with epilepsy has a 70 – 80% chance of recurring seizures.

Epilepsy is considered to be no longer present for individuals who had an age-dependent epilepsy, but are now past the applicable age or those who have remained seizure-free for at least 10 years off anti-seizure medicines, provided that there are no known risk factors associated with a high probability (>75%) of future seizures.

Seizures and epilepsy are not the same.

  • An epileptic seizure is a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.

  • Epilepsy is a disease characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate epileptic seizures and by the neurobiological, cognitive, psychological, and social consequences of this condition.

-  International League Against Epilepsy, 2014 - Operational (Practical) Clinical Definition of Epilepsy

What is a seizure?

A seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Seizures vary from person to person. They can range from someone simply staring into space, picking at their clothes, or uncontrolled movements or jerks, to becoming unconscious, falling down and having their entire body shake violently.

Anyone who is normally healthy can experience a single seizure in their lifetime. This seizure usually takes place once and lasts for less than three minutes. They will have no seizures after that. If you do experience a seizure, you need to be examined by a doctor.

A person is diagnosed with epilepsy by a neurologist once they have experienced two or more seizures. They make this diagnosis after assessing the patient’s medical history and family history.

50% of people with epilepsy will become seizure free with their first AntiSeizure Medications. Another 20% of people will notice a reduction in the amount of seizures, as the medication can better control them.

Did You Know?

Epilepsy is a disease where a person experiences recurring seizures...

More people are diagnosed with Epilepsy than Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease COMBINED.

A seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.

Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

A seizure threshold is a person's likelihood to have a seizure. ​

The lower the threshold, the more likely it is that a seizure will happen.

What are the Stages of a Seizure?

4 Stages of a Seizure

Seizures can be divided into 4 different stages.  What you can visually observe as a seizure may only be one part of the seizure. The stages of a seizure that a person experiences depends on the type of seizure the person is experiencing and where in the brain the seizure is taking place. Some people may just experience the actual seizure (Ictal stage) and the postictal stage. Others may experience the aura and the ictal stage. 

  • Stage 1: Prodrome – When a person with epilepsy can tell that seizure is going to be happening in the near future. The prodrome can be signaled or felt based on subtle changes that are happening to them. These changes can include changes in mood, sleep, feeling anxious, feeling lightheaded, or having a difficult time staying focused on whatever they are doing. This is not considered to be a part of the actual seizure, as it can occur hours before the actual seizure.

  • Stage 2: Preictal Stage – Aura – A indescribable feeling right before the seizure takes place. What a person experiences can be determined by where in the brain the seizure is taking place.

  • Stage 3: Ictal Stage – This is the actual seizure, and the part that others can witness. What happens during the seizure, or the type of seizure, is also determined by where in the brain the seizure is taking place. That is why, after making sure the person is safe, videoing what is happening to show your neurologist or epileptologist is so important. Check out the Types of Seizure Page to learn more.

  • Stage 4: Postictal Stage – After the seizure. It may take the person a little while to recover, as they just had “an electrical storm” occur in their brain.  Postictal Stage symptoms may include feeling tired, nauseous, confused and irritable. They can feel numbness or partial paralysis.

Donate to Help Us
Change the Conversation About Epilepsy!

Here are some ways you can donate:

In Person

Empowering Epilepsy Headquarters

23500 Mercantile Road, Suite D
Beachwood, OH 44122


Make a tax deductible donation‏.

Over the Phone

It's easy to donate offline too.

Tel: 216-342-4167

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