Overview of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures that are caused by abnormal cerebral nerve cell activity. There is a distinction between a patient who has one seizure and a patient who has epilepsy. Epilepsy can be classified as either idiopathic or symptomatic.

Idiopathic epilepsy has no known cause, and the person has no other signs of neurological disease or mental deficiency. Symptomatic epilepsy results from a known condition, such as stroke, head injury, poisoning, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and cerebral palsy.

Incidence and Prevalence of Epilepsy

According to the Epilepsy Foundation®, more than 2 million people in the United States and about 65 million worldwide suffer from epilepsy. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States—about 150,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Approximately 300,000 people with epilepsy are under the age of 14 and 500,000 are over the age of 65. One in ten people will have a seizure at some point during their life.

Publication Review By: Gordon R. Kelley, M.D.

Published: 31 Jan 2002

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015