Epilepsy is a neurological condition with symptoms which vary from a momentary lapse of attention to convulsions. Epilepsy has affected human beings since the beginning of time and has been recognized since the earliest medical writings. We now understand that epilepsy is a common disorder resulting from seizures that cause temporary impairment of brain functions. Damage to brain cells can disrupt the normally smooth-running pattern of electrical activity in the brain by causing an electrical overload. This can create a seizure, which causes a sudden change in the individual's consciousness and/or change in motor activity.
Epilepsy affects people of all ages, races and nationalities. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, there are approximately two and a half million people in the United States alone that have some type of seizure disorder. Epilepsy can develop at any time in a person's life. Out of the 125,000 people who are newly diagnosed each year, approximately two thirds are adults. The majority of childhood forms of epilepsy are outgrown by adulthood.
The symptoms, frequency, intensity and types of seizures can be very different for each person who is diagnosed with epilepsy. People who are able to control their condition by medication may be fortunate to not have any seizures at all, while there are some who have seizures so frequently that their quality of life is affected. Some types of epilepsy are harder to control than others. For most forms of epilepsy in children and adults, when the person has been free of seizures for 2 to 4 years, medications can often be slowly withdrawn and discontinued under the supervision of a doctor.
The cause of epilepsy in many cases is unknown. It can occur as a result of a head injury, brain tumor, a toxic reaction to drugs and alcohol, hydro-cephalus, an infection, or other conditions which injure the brain and damage brain cells.