What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a condition affecting the brain that predisposes a person to have recurrent seizures. Seizures are abnormal electrical brain activity, which can cause unusual behaviors such as shaking and possible loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition, such as alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar.

In many cases, the origin of epilepsy remains unknown. A number of conditions increase the risk of epilepsy, including developmental delay, autism, head trauma, stroke, brain tumors, or Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes epilepsy runs in families indicating a possible hereditary factor.

For children born to a mother or father with epilepsy, their chances of having seizures are only slightly higher than the general population. Having seizures should not be a reason to avoid having children. Genetic testing can be performed prior to conception in cases where there is a clear inherited pattern of epilepsy.

There are many forms of this condition, and the Mount Sinai Epilepsy Program provides unparalleled diagnostic and treatment expertise for all types of epilepsy and seizures.

Download this simple and clear Seizure tip sheet to help you learn what and what not to do when someone is having a seizure.