Synonyms: Seizure disorder

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Neurology, Surgery

Clinical Definition

Epilepsy is a chronic condition marked by recurrent seizures, also known as events of altered brain function generated by excessive electrical discharges from brain cells. There are many different causes of epilepsy, including brain tumors, stroke, congenital abnormalities, trauma and infection. Many cases of epilepsy go undiagnosed.

In Our Own Words

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that produces seizures affecting mental and physical functions. A seizure occurs when a quick, strong surge of electrical activity influences the brain. The type of seizure can be important in determining which therapies are likely to be effective.


Seizures can impact just one portion of the brain, called partial or focal seizure or epilepsy, or seizures can result from nerve cell activity throughout the brain, which is referred to as generalized. Partial seizures are further classified into simple or complex. Treatment focuses on finding what works best for the individual to control seizures with the least amount of side effects. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Non-epileptic seizures
  • Status epilepticus (SE)
Side Effects
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blank staring
  • Lip-smacking
  • Jerking of a limb plus an “aura” (i.e., an emotion or sense)
Share this article
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Epilepsy: Frequently Asked Questions.” Updated July 2012. http://my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed July 2013.
  • Epilepsy.com. “Seizure Medications.” https://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/seizure_medicines. Accessed August 2013.
  • Epilepsy Foundation. “What is Epilepsy.” http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org. Accessed July 2013.
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