Epilepsy (Seizure Disorder)

To find patient care programs and faculty treating epilepsy (seizure disorder) at Kennedy Krieger Institute, as well as research investigating this disorder, please see the right-hand column below. Additional helpful information, including definitions, symptoms, Institute press releases, Potential magazine articles, and other resources outside the Institute, have also been provided for readers on this page.

Epilepsy Overview:

A seizure is a sudden event caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Although most people think of a someone having a seizure as being completely unconscious and shaking in all four limbs, seizures can actually manifest in many different ways. Sudden periods of staring or unresponsiveness, jerking, "muscle tightening," sudden drops to the floor and muscle twitching can all be seizures. Seizures that occur in individuals with developmental disabilities may be particularly difficult to diagnose.

The term "epilepsy" refers to a high predisposition to having seizures and is typically diagnosed when someone has more than one seizure. About two million Americans have epilepsy. Of the 125,000 new cases that develop each year, up to 50 percent are in children and adolescents. Individuals with disabilities may have a significantly higher predisposition to having seizures than other individuals.

Epilepsy can be managed in most cases with medications. Other treatments, such as surgery or special diets, may be appropriate for some individuals for whom medications are not effective.