Back to Together We GrowWhat is epilepsy

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a general term used for a group of disorders that cause disruptions in electrical communication in the brain. The brain is a highly complex electrical system, powered by dozens of pulses of energy per second, which move back and forth between nerve cells to produce thoughts, feelings, and memories.

An epileptic seizure occurs when these energy pulses fire at an overwhelming rate for a short time, due to an electrical abnormality in the brain. This brief electrical surge can happen in just a small area of the brain, or it can affect the whole brain. While not all seizures are caused by epilepsy, there is a tendency for recurrent seizures in epileptic patients. Thus epilepsy is often referred to as a seizure disorder.

What are common risk factors?

Epilepsy is one of the oldest known and most misunderstood of all disabilities, and the diagnosis and cause of epilepsy is not always straightforward. While anyone at anytime may experience an injury or disease of the brain or central nervous system that may lead to epilepsy, these risk factors are more commonly associated with designated stages of life:

Prenatal: exposure to radiation, poisonous substances, drugs, German measles early in pregnancy, or RH incompatibility
Birth: oxygen deprivation
Childhood: incidences such as head injuries, measles, encephalitis, whooping cough, or meningitis
Adulthood: health issues such as brain tumors, blood circulation problems, or head injuries

How do I handle an epileptic seizure?

Most persons with epilepsy will be on medication to help reduce or eliminate seizures. However, if a seizure should occur, the following information can help you handle the situation.


Dealing with epilepsy can put a strain on families. Each member of the family needs to understand what epilepsy is, how it's treated, and what to expect. It is important to remember that everyone is in it together, and there are resources available to assist in dealing with a child who suffers from seizure disorder. Epilepsy is a common disorder among participants in Together We Grow's pediatric day care and weekend respite programs. We offer families not only the ability to take a break from the everyday stress of caring for a child with epilepsy, but we are also a resource for sharing information, fears, and hopes.

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