What are epilepsy and seizures?
Epilepsy is a disease of the central nervous system that causes abnormal brain activity, which in turn can cause seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. Almost 5% of the United States population will develop epilepsy.
Anyone can develop epilepsy and not all seizures mean you have epilepsy. Seizures can be mild, such as a blank stare for a few seconds. Other seizures can be very severe, with symptoms lasting a day or so. Treatment with medications helps most people; some people grow out of their seizures as they age.
The current definition of epilepsy disease indicates a person has epilepsy if they have any of the following conditions:
Why should I worry about epilepsy and seizures?
Having epilepsy and seizures affects your safety, relationships, work, ability to legally drive, and virtually every aspect of your life. Uncontrolled seizures can cause brain damage, memory loss and other problems. If you fall during a seizure, you may injure your head or break bones. If you’re bathing or swimming and have a seizure, you’re 19 times more likely to drown. Most states have driver restrictions related to drivers who have seizures.
The public’s fear and misunderstanding about epilepsy and seizures often cause the most anguish for people with epilepsy. This contributes to problems with emotional and mental health, especially depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
People with epilepsy also have a small risk (1%) of sudden unexpected death, usually because of heart or respiratory conditions. The risk of sudden death from a seizure is greater with severe epilepsy that isn’t controlled by medication.