Epilepsy

Alternative Names

Temporal lobe epilepsy; Seizure disorder

Definition of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder involving repeated, spontaneous of any type. Seizures (“fits,” convulsions) are episodes of disturbed brain function that cause changes in attention or behavior. They are caused by abnormally excited electrical signals in the brain.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Seizures (“fits,” convulsions) are episodes of disturbed brain function that cause changes in attention or behavior. They are caused by abnormally excited electrical signals in the brain.

Symptoms

The severity of symptoms can vary greatly, from simple staring spells to loss of consciousness and violent convulsions. For most people with epilepsy, each seizure is similar to previous ones. The type of seizure a person has depends on a variety of things, such as the part of the brain affected and the underlying cause of the seizure.

Signs and tests

A physical examination (including a detailed neurologic examination) may be normal, or it may show abnormal brain function related to specific areas of the brain.

Treatment

For treatment of seizures, please see

Expectations (prognosis)

Some people with certain types of seizures may be able to reduce or completely stop their seizure medicines after having no seizures for several years. Certain types of childhood epilepsy goes away or improves with age — usually in the late teens or 20s.

Review

Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 1/23/2010

Brain structures
Limbic system
Treatment of epilepsy
Central nervous system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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