The Epilepsy Foundation of America describes epilepsy as a condition of the brain causing seizures, and a seizure is a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons. The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) defines epilepsy in stating a seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.”

Epilepsy, deriving from the Greek word, ἐεπιλαμβάνειν (pronounced ‘Epilepsia’), is defined as To seize, possess, or afflict. The earliest recordings of seizures or recurrent seizures was in 7500 B.C. A Mesopotamian cuneiform script was uncovered that described uncontrollable shaking, unconsciousness, and confusion or fogginess thereafter. The Mesopotamian people labeled this as “a possession of the moon god” and treated it with an exorcism.

Thank God for human progression!

In our time, Epilepsy affects over 65 million people worldwide, and over 3 million in the United States. Medicine, although not currently perfect, helps in over 70% of all cases. Yet one question I hear from almost everybody I talk to is “How does it work?”

Here is my personal explanation:

seizure, epilepsy, what happens during a seizure, electricity in the brainImagine your brain as a big jumble of roads and houses everywhere. The roads are your neurons and the houses are the brain cells connected to them. Say there are mailmen that deliver messages to the ‘houses’ every millisecond. If one of these mailmen goes to the wrong house, or turns onto the wrong road, this causes a seizure. Since the mailman got lost, your brain goes into an electrical freakout. Electrical signals all go haywire, all the mailmen start running to all the wrong houses, and make you shake, tense up, stare into space, smell or hear things, or experience other uncontrolled activities that happen during a seizure. Once the seizure is over, you may stay in lockdown for a few minutes – this is because your brain needs to reboot and the mailmen need to start getting back on the right route. When you wake up, your muscles are all tense and achy because you strained them so much while seizing or you’re confused – or you may not even know anything happened.

Now that I’ve somewhat explained it, you could use an idea like this to tell people how epilepsy works. For more information, visit the Epilepsy Foundation of America website.

You’re Not Alone,

Simon Clark