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Epilepsy

Epilepsy refers to a condition in which a person experiences seizures caused by so-called "unprovoked reasons." Learn how the care team at Lehigh Valley Health Network's Neuroscience Center can help you manage epilepsy.

About 10 percent of people have at least one seizure at some point in their lives. Anything that disrupts the normal electrical activity in the brain can cause a seizure. Frequent causes: high fever, low blood sugar, high blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal, or a brain structural abnormality.

Epilepsy implies that the person is at risk to have unprovoked seizures. This diagnosis is certain when a person has two or more unprovoked seizures or after a single seizure if the patient has other elements – abnormal physical exam, abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) or abnormal neuroimaging – he or she is considered to have epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects up to 1 percent of the population. 

Epilepsy has many possible causes including brain tumor, stroke, brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these. In a large group of patients, there is no detectable cause. 

Some possible seizure triggers include: 

  • Vascular disorders such as ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke 
  • Endocrine disorders 
  • Genetics 
  • Infection (such as meningitis) 
  • Inflammation 
  • Injury (trauma) 
  • Metabolic disorders 

Types of seizures 

The type of seizure depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected and what happens during the seizure. The two broad categories of epileptic seizures are focal and generalized seizures (absence, atonic, tonic-clonic and myoclonic). 

Infants and children may have age specific seizures including infantile spasms, febrile (fever) seizures.

The care team at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Neuroscience Center can help diagnose, treat and manage seizure disorders. Treatment may include anticonvulsive medication, which is effective for 70 percent of people with a seizure disorder, vagus nerve stimulation or surgery.