Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
A seizure happens when a brief, burst of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. That electrical activity can be measured with an EEG, but EEGs don't always show signs of seizures in all patients. About 1 in 10 people will have a single seizure, but 1 in 200 will have epilepsy.
Seizures are very terrifying to watch. Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, but are usually about 30 seconds. They don't always involve convulsions; some patients will have staring, head drops, brief spasms, or just feel unusual. We don't know why seizures happen on any given day.
There are many causes for seizures, but they are often genetic in children. We usually obtain an EEG and sometimes an MRI for children with epilepsy. Children can sometimes outgrow their seizures, but while they are happening they can sometimes affect learning, mood, and well-being.
Treatments include drugs, dietary treatments, vagus nerve stimulation and epilepsy surgery. Which therapy is chosen for any given child is a decision made between a doctor and the parent (and often the child if they are old enough). Doctors that specialize in childhood epilepsy are called "pediatric epileptologists".