Hughlings Jackson first recognized in 1861 that a seizure is an abnormal discharge of an aggregate of neurons.
Epilepsy is derived from the Greek word epilepsia meaning “to take hold of or seize”.
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder caused by disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain. During normal brain function, millions of tiny electrical charges pass from nerve cells in the brain to all parts of the body. In patients with epilepsy, this normal pattern is interrupted by sudden and unusually intense bursts of electrical energy, which may briefly affect a person’s consciousness, bodily movements, or sensations. These physical changes are called epileptic seizures.
There are two categories of seizures: partial seizures, which occur in one area of the brain, and generalized seizures, which affect nerve cells throughout the brain. Epilepsy may result from a brain injury before, during, or after birth; head trauma; poor nutrition; some infectious diseases; brain tumors; and some poisons. However, in many cases the cause is unknown. Attacks of epilepsy may be preceded by a feeling of unease or sensory discomfort called an aura, which indicates the beginning of the seizure. Signs of an impending epileptic seizure, which vary among patients, may include visual phenomena such as flickering lights or “sunbursts.”
The many forms of epilepsy include: grand mal, Jacksonian, myoclonic progressive familial, petit mal, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, febrile seizures, psychomotor, and temporal lobe. Individuals predisposed to seizures may be at increased risk of having a seizure following stress, sleep deprivation, fatigue, insufficient food intake, or failure to take prescribed medications.
Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892