Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.



You are here


Understanding Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have seizures.1 Seizures occur when clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain send out the wrong signals.2 There are many kinds of seizures.  All involve abnormal electrical activity in the brain that causes involuntary change in body movement or function, sensation, awareness, or behavior.3 Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. A person who has had two or more unprovoked seizures may be considered to have epilepsy.4

To diagnose epilepsy, a careful medical history is gathered with information about what the seizures looked like and what happened just before they began.5 The physician will perform a physical examination and may order diagnostic tests such as an EEG (electroencephalograph), CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look for any physical conditions in the brain that may be causing the seizures.5

There is no cure for epilepsy, but for 80 % of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and/or surgical techniques.7             


Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions

 Other Resources

  • The Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina is dedicated to leading the fight to stop seizures, find a cure, and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy.
  • The Epilepsy Institute of North Carolina is an independent non-profit corporation dedicated to enriching the quality of life for children and adults challenged with epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
  • The American Epilepsy Society seeks to promote interdisciplinary communications, scientific investigation and exchange of clinical information about epilepsy.

 Advocacy and Social Connections

  • To connect with other parents and families who also have a child with epilepsy, contact the Family Support NetworkTM of North Carolina.
  • Take Charge Teens has been created by the Epilepsy Foundation to give teenagers  a place to learn more about epilepsy, to talk about their experiences, to educate others, and to advocate for themselves and others with epilepsy.
  • The Epilepsy Foundation Youth Council, or Go EYC, is a group of young advocates who seek to raise awareness, engage and educate others, and, through these actions, eliminate the stigma associated with epilepsy.
  • The Intractable Childhood Epilepsy Alliance (ICE), located in North Carolina, provides ways for individuals and their families to learn more about intractible epilepsy, including how they can become involved with local, regional, and national advocacy efforts. 
  • The Epilepsy Advocate strives to inspire people to interact with other people with epilepsy, learn from one another, and make positive changes in each other's lives.


  1. The Epilepsy Foundation (2011). What Is Epilepsy? Available online at
  2. National Institutes of Health (2011). Epilepsy. Available online at
  3. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Epilepsy. Available online at
  4. The Epilepsy Foundation (2011). What Is Epilepsy? Available online at
  5. The National Dissemination Center For Children With Disabilities. (2011). Epilepsy. Available online at
  6. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2011). NINDS Epilepsy Information Page. Available online at
  • Oct 10 2014