department of neurology  
  710 West 168th Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10032 || Telephone: 212-305-1742 || Email: epilepsy@columbia.edu  
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PATIENT INFORMATION




» What is Epilepsy?
» Treatment of Epilepsy
» Seizure Precautions
» Seizure First Aid

What is a seizure?



A seizure is a brief electrical disturbance in the brain. There are different kinds of seizures, and each person's seizures are unique to him or her. If a person has had only a single seizure in his/her lifetime, he or she does not have epilepsy.



What is Epilepsy?



If a person has recurrent seizures, he/she is said to have epilepsy. Just as there are different kinds of seizures, there are different kinds of epilepsy.



Is there a difference between seizures and epilepsy?



Epilepsy is a syndrome. A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and physical signs that occur because of a specific disease. Symptoms are what a person experiences due to an illness. Fever and pain are two examples of symptoms. Physical signs are abnormalities which can be seen on a physical examination. Redness and swelling are two examples of physical signs. In the syndrome of epilepsy, seizures are one of the symptoms.



Who has seizures? Who has epilepsy?



About 10% of all people will experience a single seizure during his/her lifetime.
About 3% of Americans will have epilepsy in their lifetime.
Two-and-a-half million Americans have epilepsy.



What causes epilepsy?



There are many different causes of epilepsy. In only 30% of cases is a clear cause identified. That means that 70% of the time, the cause is unknown. Common causes of epilepsy include head trauma, stroke, brain tumors and infection.



Is epilepsy contagious?



No. Never.



How is epilepsy diagnosed?



Usually, the diagnosis is made by a Neurologist or Internist based on symptoms, physical signs, and results of testing such as an electroencephalogram (EEG).



How is epilepsy treated?



» Treatment of epilepsy



What should I do if I have a seizure?



Many people experience a warning, or aura, just before their seizure. The warning may allow that person enough time to find a safe place before the seizure causes him or her to lose consciousness. However, if there is no aura, or if the aura is very brief, this may not be possible. In order to make your environment safer, we have developed a list of seizure precautions that you can use to help prevent injury that can occur during a seizure. In the event of a seizure, friends and family members should be familiar with seizure first aid.



Where can I find out more about epilepsy?



Please contact Columbia Comprehensive Epilepsy Center for more resources and information:
Phone: 212-305-1742
Address: 710 W 168th St, New York, NY 10032

© 2004 The Neurological Institute of New York • Columbia Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. 710 W 168th St, New York, NY 10032. Phone: 212-305-1742
Department of Neurology | Columbia University Medical Center | Last updated: December 12, 2012 | Comments
 

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