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A disorder of brain function characterized by sudden seizures, brief attacks of inappropriate behavior, change in one’s state of consciousness or bizarre movements. Seizures–also called fits or convulsions–are a symptom, not a disease. Epilepsy is not contagious.

Sex or Age most Affected

Both sexes; all ages. Seizures usually begin between ages 2 and 14.

Signs & Symptons

There are several forms of epilepsy (listed below), each with its own characteristics:

  • Petit mal epilepsy, which mostly affects children. The person stops activity and stares blankly around for a minute or so–unaware of what is happening.
  • Grand mal epilepsy, which affects all ages. The person loses consciousness, stiffens, then twitches and jerks uncontrollably. He or she may lose bladder control. The seizure lasts several minutes, and is often followed by deep sleep or mental confusion. Prior to the seizure, the person may have warning signals: a tense feeling; visual disturbances; smelling a bad odor; or hearing strange noises.
  • Focal epilepsy, in which a small part of the body begins twitching uncontrollably. The twitching spreads until it may involve the whole body. The person does not lose consciousness.
  • Temporal-lobe epilepsy, in which the person suddenly behaves out of character or inappropriately, such as: becoming suddenly violent or angry; laughing for no reason; or making agitated or bizarre body movements, including odd chewing movements.


More than 50 brain disorders, but the organic cause can be determined in only 25% of cases. Common causes include:

  • Brain damage at or before birth.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Metabolic causes – hypoglycemia/ hypocalcemia.
    Severe head injury.
  • Brain infection.
  • Brain tumor or an expanding lesion that compresses the brain (occasionally).

Risk Increases With

  • Family history of seizure disorders.
  • Low blood sugar.


No specific preventive measures other than drugs


  • A lot of Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Doctor’s treatment.
  • Surgery to remove any tumor, scar, or abscess, if one is causing epilepsy.
  • Psychotherapy or counseling to learn to understand and live with the disorder.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms. An eyewitness account is most useful for your doctor.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory blood studies.
  • EEG.
  • X-rays of the head.
  • CT scan.

Possible Complications

Continuing seizures (despite treatment), and mental deterioration (rare).

Probable Outcomes

Epilepsy is incurable, except in relatively rare cases where epilepsy is caused by treatable brain damage, tumors or infection. However, anticonvulsant drugs can prevent most seizures and allow a near-normal life.


General Measures

  • Request and carry a Alert bracelet or pendant that shows your child has epilepsy in case he has a seizure.
  • Avoid any circumstance that has triggered a seizure previously.
  • In event of seizure, loosen clothing, lay person flat and protect from injury. Although frightening, seizures are rarely harmful in themselves.


Your doctor will prescribe anticonvulsant drugs. Your child’s response to treatment will be monitored. Medication changes or adjustments made in dosage.

Learn as much as you can about your medication. The drugs used cause significant side effects, in addition to suppressing seizures.


No restrictions. For first 1-year care has to be taken while swimming or dangerous games.


No special diet. Don’t drink alcohol. It may decrease the effectiveness of your medication and provoke seizures.

Contact your Doctor

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop during treatment for epilepsy. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.