This informational guide, part of POPSUGAR’s Condition Center, lays out the realities of this health concern: what it is, what it can look like, and strategies that medical experts say are proven to help. You should always consult your doctor regarding matters pertaining to your health and before starting any course of medical treatment.

Having a seizure can be terrifying and dangerous. But having two or more seizures seemingly out of the blue could be a sign of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a disorder that causes seizures, which are short changes in normal brain activity. “Seizures are like a computer short-circuiting,” says Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. “When your computer crashes, it needs to restart. When you have a seizure, your brain crashes and needs to restart.”

Seizures look different for everyone and can include staring spells, falling, shaking, and losing awareness of surroundings, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Just over one percent of Americans have epilepsy, per the CDC. While anyone can be diagnosed with epilepsy, the condition is most common in children and older adults, says Brad Kamitaki, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The signs and symptoms of epilepsy can be confusing if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Doctors stress that having one seizure doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. Here’s what epilepsy involves, as well as what causes the disorder and how it’s treated.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures, says Ramya Raghupathi, MD, an assistant professor of clinical neurology at Penn Medicine. “‘Unprovoked’ means that there is no immediate cause for the seizure, such as a fever, an infection of the brain, or head trauma,” she says.

Dr. Raghupathi notes that nearly 10 percent of people will have a seizure during their lifetime. “Most of these are ‘provoked’ seizures during an acute illness or condition,” she says. “These people may never go on to have another seizure, and therefore do not have epilepsy.”

But if you have had more than one seizure, you may have epilepsy, Dr. Segil explains. “Between seizures, most people with epilepsy are completely normal,” Dr. Raghupathi notes. However, she adds, “seizures can occur at any time, often without warning”

Source:, Korin Miller