Epilepsy is a common and diverse set of chronic neurological disorders characterized by seizures. Some definitions of epilepsy require that seizures be recurrent and unprovoked,but others require only a single seizure combined with brain alterations which increase the chance of future seizures. In many cases a cause cannot be identified; however, factors that are associated include brain trauma, strokes, brain cancer, and drug and alcohol misuse among others.
Epileptic seizures result from abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain. About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly 80% of epilepsy occurs in developing countries. Epilepsy becomes more common as people age. Onset of new cases occurs most frequently in infants and the elderly. As a consequence of brain surgery, epileptic seizures may occur in recovering patients.
Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication. However, more than 30% of people with epilepsy do not have seizure control even with the best available medications. Surgery may be considered in difficult cases. Not all epilepsy syndromes are lifelong – some forms are confined to particular stages of childhood. Epilepsy should not be understood as a single disorder, but rather as syndromic with vastly divergent symptoms, all involving episodic abnormal electrical activity in the brain and numerous seizures.