Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. Anyone can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms may include: • Temporary confusion • A staring spell • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs • Loss of consciousness or awareness • Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or deja vu Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode.
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half the people with the condition. In the other half, the condition may be traced to various factors, including: • Genetic influence. Some types of epilepsy, which are categorized by the type of seizure you experience or the part of the brain that is affected, run in families. In these cases, it's likely that there's a genetic influence. Researchers have linked some types of epilepsy to specific genes, but for most people, genes are only part of the cause of epilepsy. Certain genes may make a person more sensitive to environmental conditions that trigger seizures. • Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause epilepsy. • Brain conditions. Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain, such as brain tumors or strokes, can cause epilepsy. Stroke is a leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35. • Infectious diseases. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy. • Prenatal injury. Before birth, babies are sensitive to brain damage that could be caused by several factors, such as an infection in the mother, poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies. This brain damage can result in epilepsy or cerebral palsy. • Developmental disorders. Epilepsy can sometimes be associated with developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis.