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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Epilepsy
      Category : Health Centers > Brain and Nervous System


Alternate Names : Seizure Disorder

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain in which seizures occur repeatedly. Seizures are caused by sudden, large discharges of electrical impulses from brain cells.

What is going on in the body?

Neurons are the nerve cells within the brain. They coordinate movement, thinking, personality, and sensory activities. Neurons communicate with each other through electrical discharges. A seizure occurs when excitable neurons give off abnormal electrical discharges. There are different types of seizures, depending on where the excitable neurons are located. Epilepsy is diagnosed when an individual has a repeating pattern of seizures.

Epilepsy is divided into two main types: generalized and partial. Generalized epilepsy affects the entire brain. The person loses consciousness or awareness of the environment. Partial epilepsy affects only one part of the brain. The individual usually doesn't lose consciousness.

Generalized epilepsy may cause the following types of seizures:

  • absence seizures
  • atonic seizures
  • clonic seizures
  • myoclonic seizures
  • tonic seizures
  • tonic-clonic seizures
  • Partial epilepsy may cause the following types of seizures:

  • complex partial seizures
  • secondary generalized seizures
  • simple partial seizures
  • What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    Epilepsy may be caused by many diseases and conditions. Some of the diseases that can cause epilepsy are as follows:

  • advanced liver disease
  • Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia
  • atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
  • bleeding into the brain, such as a subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • infections involving the brain, including encephalitis and bacterial meningitis
  • brain tumors
  • congenital diseases or conditions
  • hereditary diseases
  • stroke
  • transient ischemic attack, which is also called a small stroke
  • Certain conditions that can cause epilepsy include the following:

  • abnormalities in the blood vessels of the brain
  • chromosomal abnormalities
  • craniotomy, which is brain surgery
  • head injury
  • illegal drugs, such as cocaine
  • injury during birth or in the uterus
  • lead poisoning


    Next section


    Epilepsy: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Michael Curiel, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 09/04/01

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