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With 200,000 new cases a year—about the same as breast cancer—epilepsy and seizures are among the most common medical conditions in America, yet they remain largely misunderstood or ignored. Learn the truth about epilepsy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Epilepsy Foundation .
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a general term that describes frequent, recurrent seizures. A normally functioning brain is able to think, feel and tell the body to move because of electrical impulses that stimulate brain cells. During a seizure, however, incorrect electrical signals overwhelm the brain—resulting in changes in behavior or awareness (such hallucinations) and involuntary movements.
While all epilepsy involves seizures, not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. If the cause of the seizure can be determined to have been caused by something like a concussion, low blood sugar or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, the person likely does not have epilepsy. If the seizures are common and have no external cause, however, a doctor may diagnose a patient with epilepsy.
Epilepsy and Seizures by the Numbers