Back to Top What is Epilepsy? - The Ottawa Hospital
 

Epilepsy is not rare – in fact, about 1 in 100 Canadians has epilepsy and more than 50 million people worldwide live with it. It can affect anyone of any gender, age and ethnicity.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disease. It is characterized by the tendency to have recurrent seizures. It is sometimes called a seizure disorder. A person has epilepsy if they:

  • have had at least two unprovoked seizures, or
  • have had one seizure and are very likely to have another, or
  • are diagnosed with an epilepsy syndrome

A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain that causes a temporary disturbance in the way brain cells communicate with each other. The kind of seizure a person has depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected by the electrical disturbance that produces the seizure.

A seizure may take many different forms, including a blank stare, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations or convulsions. Seizures are typically brief and can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Seizures can involve all of the brain all at once from the very beginning, or may instead start in one particular region of the brain. When they start everywhere they are called generalized and when they start in one spot, they are called focal.

epilepsy diagram

Your neurologist and epilepsy specialist will determine if you are affected by seizures and if you have a diagnosis of epilepsy.

They will work together with you and provide you with the best possible treatment plan to ensure you lead a full and healthy life.

Last updated on: February 11th, 2021