What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a diverse group of neurological disorders of varying types and severities which are characterized by recurrent seizures. (Epilepsy is sometimes called “seizure disorder.”) When a person has had two or more seizures which have not been provoked by specific events such as trauma, infection, fever or chemical change, they are considered to have epilepsy.

What causes epilepsy?

In general, epilepsy and seizures result from abnormal circuit activity in the brain. Any event ranging from faulty wiring during brain development, brain inflammation, physical injury or infection can lead to seizure and epilepsy. Underlying causes for epilepsy include:

  • Brain structure abnormalities
  • Genetics
  • Immune system abnormalities
  • Infectious disease
  • Metabolism changes
  • Stroke
  • Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Unknown causes

However, according to recent estimates, in up to 50% of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown (idiopathic).

Who can be diagnosed with epilepsy?

Epilepsy and seizures can develop in any person and at any age, though new cases are most common in children, especially in the first year of life. An estimated 65 million people worldwide currently live with epilepsy, including more than 3.4 million Americans. In fact, one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.

Is there a cure for epilepsy?

Sadly, there is no cure for epilepsy. There are, however, many treatments and therapies available to help patients with epilepsy become seizure-free, including medication, anti-seizure devices, and surgery.

While a majority of patients with epilepsy will achieve seizure freedom, more than 30% do not respond to medication at all, and their seizures remain uncontrolled. Research will help us find a cure for epilepsy.

Epilepsy's Economic Impact

Globally, the burden of epilepsy is huge: Of the top 5 chronic conditions among children and adults, epilepsy is the costliest and second most common. Epilepsy costs the United States approximately $15.5 billion each year, yet U.S. federal funding in epilepsy is modest and lags behind other common neurological conditions.

Scientific research is our greatest hope for discovering the cures for epilepsy. CURE Epilepsy is proud to fund patient-focused research around the around. Click here to see the latest in epilepsy research news, including CURE Epilepsy discoveries.

Diagnosis, Treatments, and Therapies

Epilepsy can be diagnosed by administering tests to assess whether there are any detectable abnormalities in a person’s brainwaves; the most common diagnostic test for epilepsy is the electroencephalogram (EEG). Tests can determine if a person has epilepsy and, if so, what kind of seizures will result.

Epilepsy and seizures can be treated by a variety of therapies, including medication, dietary changes, and surgery. Some individuals with treatment-resistant epilepsy also explore alternative treatments while looking to achieve seizure freedom, including participating in clinical drug trials.

The information contained herein is provided for general information only and does not offer medical advice or recommendations. Individuals should not rely on this information as a substitute for consultations with qualified health care professionals who are familiar with individual medical conditions and needs.

CURE Epilepsy strongly recommends that care and treatment decisions related to epilepsy and any other medical condition be made in consultation with a patient’s physician or other qualified health care professionals who are familiar with the individual’s specific health situation.

Learn More About Epilepsy and Seizures


About Seizures


Seizing Life: All About Seizures


Webinar: The New Way to Describe Your Seizure Type


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