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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.

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.         


Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Epilepsy Foundation parents' website includes useful information for parents and caregivers of those with epilepsy. 
  • The Epilepsy Foundation provides answers to frequently asked questions about epilepsy and information on epilepsy in the African-American community.
  • NC Health Info is an online guide to websites of quality health and medical information and local services throughout North Carolina and is also available en espanol.

 Other Resources

  • The Epilepsy Alliance 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 Network of North Carolina.
  • The Epilepsy Foundation has an online forum for teens to connect and discuss school, driving, dating, and other concerns.

  • 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. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2011). NINDS Epilepsy Information Page. Available online at


  • Oct 10 2014