Epilepsy is a neurological condition caused by electrical disturbances in the brain. The condition results in seizures, which can cause unusual behavior, movements, or experiences, and sometimes a lack of awareness or loss of consciousness.

Epilepsy is diagnosed when you've had two or more seizures and there's no medical condition behind them, such as alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar.

While the exact cause of epilepsy is unknown in about half of the cases, it sometimes runs in families or can result from different conditions such as strokes, infections, and traumatic brain injury. Treatment options include anti-seizure medications and, in some cases, surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes epilepsy?

    Epilepsy is a complex disorder and can be caused by anything that alters the brain’s electrical activity. Epilepsy can be linked to specific factors, including genetics, a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, or a brain infection.

  • How is epilepsy diagnosed?

    A variety of tests are used to help diagnose epilepsy, including a neurological exam and an electroencephalogram (EEG). Other tests may include blood work and imaging studies of the brain, such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a positron emission tomography (PET).

  • Is epilepsy genetic?

    Many forms of epilepsy have a genetic component. Though genes don't necessarily cause epilepsy, they may make someone predisposed to it. For example, if you have the genes linked with epilepsy, you may be more likely to develop it if you experience a traumatic brain injury.

  • Is epilepsy considered a disability?

    The Social Security Administration lists epilepsy as one of the conditions which may qualify you for disability benefits if you meet their specific requirements. The rules regarding epilepsy are very technical, with separate requirements for convulsive and non-convulsive forms of the condition.

Key Terms

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  1. Epilepsy Foundation. About epilepsy: The basics. Updated March 19, 2014.

Additional Reading