WHAT IS EPILEPSY?
Epilepsy is a condition of the brain that is characterized by recurrent seizures. Approximately one in ten Canadians will experience at least one seizure during a lifetime. A single seizure, however, is not epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition that is defined by multiple seizures.
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder. It is not a psychological disorder nor a disease and it is not contagious. The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells or neurons that communicate through electrical and chemical signals. When there is a sudden excessive electrical discharge that disrupts the normal activity of the nerve cells, a seizure may result.
Seizures cause a change in function or behaviour. A seizure may take many different forms including a blank stare, muscle spasms, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, or a convulsion. The location in the brain of the abnormally discharging nerve cells determines the form the seizure will take. Seizures may occur rarely or as often as numerous times a day. If the condition is successfully controlled by medication, a person may be seizure free.
Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. An estimated one percent of the general population has epilepsy. Based on that estimate, approximately 15,000 people in Edmonton and Northern Alberta and 300,000 people in Canada have epilepsy. In North America, approximately four million people have epilepsy.
Epilepsy can be present at any age although its onset is most often in childhood or in the later years of life. Sometimes those who develop seizures during childhood outgrow their seizures. In the elderly, there is an increased incidence due to strokes and aging of the brain. In more than half of those with epilepsy, seizures can be well controlled with seizure medication.