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The Differences between Epilepsy and Seizures

The Differences between Epilepsy and Seizures

In case a person has a seizure, it’s only natural they begin contemplating the possibility of epilepsy as seizures are its primary symptom.

Seizures are described as irregular nervous activity (which happens in the nerves) in the brain, and at times this irregularity could turn recurrent or chronic. When seizures become a consistent problem, the condition is called epilepsy.

You can have a seizure without having epilepsy, but you cannot have epilepsy without having seizures.

If you or anyone you know has experienced a seizure, read on to learn what distinguishes seizures from epilepsy and what you can do to better manage these conditions. In case you are seeking treatment for epilepsy and/or seizures in Dwarka, please don’t hesitate and call us, we’ll set you up with some of Delhi’s best neurologists for treating epilepsy and seizures.

The difference between epilepsy and seizures

Seizures are isolated happenings of abnormal electrical activity within the brain. There can be many reasons behind seizures, this also includes single events that happen as reaction to medication. While on the other hand, Epilepsy defined as 2 or more Seizures spared atleast 24 hours apart. It’s vitally important to identify and treat the underlying cause of single seizures and to identify and distinguish a standalone seizure from epilepsy.


Our brain functions by sending electrical signals via nerve cells and in case the signals get changed or interrupted, it can lead to a seizure. Seizures can happen in many forms and can be triggered by many events and conditions. One standalone seizure doesn’t necessarily mean a person has epilepsy, but in case of two or more seizures, a person could be diagnosed with epilepsy.

Seizures are the predominant symptom of epilepsy, but they can also be triggered by a host of other events.

Nonepileptic seizures are seizures that are brought on by situations that are not related to epilepsy. Some of the causes behind nonepileptic seizures are high fever, injuries to the head and neck, meningitis, as a symptom of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs, choking, high and low blood pressure, kidney or liver failure, suffering stroke or if a person has a brain tumour. Seizures will not always involve violent convulsions

There are many types of seizures, and they are divided into two categories: generalised and focal.

Generalised seizures are:

  • • Absence seizures
    Also known as petit mal, these can cause a person to lose focus, blink rapidly, or stare out into space at nothing for a little while.
  • • Tonic-clonic seizures
    Also known as grand mal, these can lead a person to cry out, fall down to the ground, or experience sudden muscle jerks and contractions.

Focal seizures are

  • • Simple focal seizures
    These seizures affect only a small part of the brain and mostly have minimal symptoms, for example a small twitch or a weird taste in the mouth.
  • • Complex focal seizures
    These seizures happen to multiple areas of the brain and can cause confusion. A person may get disoriented or be unable to respond in any capacity a while.
  • • Secondary generalized seizures
    These begin as a focal seizure in one part of the brain and turn into a generalised seizure.


Epilepsy medical term given to a condition in which a person experiences recurring seizure. When these seizures can be mapped to a cause like withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, the underlying cause will be treated, and it’s deemed a nonepileptic seizure.

While on the other hand, when there is no discernible underlying cause, it’s considered an unprovoked seizure and can be the result of abnormal or unexplained electrical activity in the brain.

There are many types of epilepsy, they are

  • • Progressive myoclonic epilepsy
    This includes many rare, usually hereditary conditions that are related to metabolism disorders that usually start in late childhood or in teenage years and comes with seizure activity, myoclonus and weakness that can progressively become worse with time.
  • • Refractory epilepsy
    An epilepsy will be termed refractory if seizures persist in spite of medication.
  • • Reflex epilepsy
    This epilepsy involves seizures that are triggered by external or internal stimuli like strong emotions, temperature changes, or even lights.
  • • Photosensitive epilepsy
    This is the most commonly recorded type of reflex epilepsy and is triggered by sudden flashing or strobing lights and this epilepsy usually begins during childhood and can lessen or disappear during adult years.

There some types of epilepsy that happen only during childhood, these are:

  • • Myoclonic astatic epilepsy of childhood (Doose syndrome)
    These are characterised by a sudden loss of muscle control with no apparent cause.
  • • Benign Rolandic epilepsy (BRE)
    These involve twitching, numbness, and tingling on the face or tongue and can lead to speech problems or inadvertent drooling. This will usually end in adolescence.
  • • Rasmussen syndrome
    This is a rare autoimmune syndrome, and is characterised by focal seizures which are the first symptom. Surgery is generally the viable treatment for this, even more so if the seizures can become difficult to manage with medications.
  • • Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
    This very rare condition is a product of multiple types of seizures and is usually seen in children who have developmental delays and cause for this is still unknown.
  • • Electrical status epilepticus of sleep (ESES)
    This can be characterised by seizures that happen during sleep and abnormal EEG findings during sleep. It usually happens to school going children, mostly while they’re sleep and can involve learning or language delays as well.

Diagnosis from a doctor is the best way to determine whether a person has epilepsy, has suffered only a stand-alone seizure, or has the potential to get epilepsy after a single seizure.

Dr. Madhukar Bhardwaj
Sr. Consultant,

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