What Is Seizure Disorder or Epilepsy?

Not every seizure is a sign of epilepsy, but it might be.

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Seizure Disorder, more commonly known as , is a neurological condition in which the brain's abnormal electrical activity causes muscular convulsions and altered mental states. Epilepsy is diagnosed when an individual has two or more seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the disorder is surprisingly prevalent: "When the incidence of epilepsy is looked at over a lifetime, 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at sometime in their life."

What Are Seizures?

Seizures take many forms. While "tonic-clonic" seizures are very obvious, and involve the kind of jerky movements often seen on TV, "absence" seizures can be hard to spot because they involve a moment or moments of non-responsive behavior. A child may look like she is daydreaming when in fact she is experiencing a seizure.

Partial seizures may be even harder to spot, because the person involved may not be aware that something unusual is going on. They may experience a sense of deja vu, or feel that something is unfamiliar even when they know they have experienced it before. They may smell something that isn't present, or hear music that isn't there. 

Seizures can occur as a result of epilepsy, but they can also occur for a wide range of other reasons. Febrile seizures (seizures associated with a fever) are not uncommon among very young children. Most of the time, seizures are not harmful in themselves.

 A single seizure associated with illness or some other event is probably benign, but it's always a good idea to check with your pediatrician.

What if It's Epilepsy?

Epilepsy can be caused by a number of things -- or it can have no obvious cause at all. It's important to ensure that there are no serious neurological issues such as head injury or a tumor causing the onset of epilepsy.

Even if the epilepsy is relatively mild and is not caused by a serious health problem, it is important to treat it. That's because epileptic seizures can lead to a range of problems including --

More severe "grand mal" seizures can, of course, be a serious problem in many situations. At school, a dramatic 20-minute seizure can disrupt classes and cause a wide range of social and personal issues. On a bicycle or behind the wheel, such a seizure can lead to loss of control, injury, and even death.

Most of the time, epilepsy can be well-controlled by medications.  Each person, however, reacts differently to drugs -- so it may take some trial and error to discover the ideal choice for your child's particular needs.

Can You Outgrow Epilepsy?

It's quite often the case that a child with epilepsy will grow up to be an adult WITHOUT epilepsy. In fact, about two thirds of children diagnosed with epilepsy will outgrow their symptoms as teens.

This is, of course, good news -- especially for teens interested in getting their driver's license!

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Also Known As: Epilepsy

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