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Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. An abnormal area in your brain sometimes sends bursts of electrical activity that cause your seizures. A birth defect, tumor, stroke, dementia, injury, or infection may cause epilepsy. The cause of your epilepsy may not be known. If your seizures are not controlled, epilepsy may become life-threatening.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of your first.
  • You are injured during a seizure.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel you are not able to cope with your condition.
  • Your seizures happen more often.
  • After your seizures you are confused longer than you usually are.
  • You are planning to get pregnant or are currently pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines will be given to control your seizures. You may need medicine daily to prevent seizures or during a seizure to stop it.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your neurologist as directed:

You may need tests to check the level of antiseizure medicine in your blood. Your neurologist may need to change or adjust your medicine. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Important things to know about epilepsy:

  • Take your medicine every day at the same time to prevent seizures and side effects.
  • Keep a seizure diary to help you find your triggers and avoid them. Write down the dates of your seizures, where you were, and what you were doing. Include how you felt before and after. Possible triggers include illness, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, alcohol, drugs, lights, or stress.
  • Create a care plan. Tell family, friends, and coworkers about your epilepsy. Give them instructions that tell them how they can keep you safe if you have a seizure.
  • Find support. You may be referred to a psychologist or social worker. Ask about support groups for people with epilepsy.
  • Ask what safety precautions you should take. Talk with your neurologist about driving, swimming, and bathing.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card that says you have epilepsy. Ask where to get these items.

How others can keep you safe during an epileptic seizure:

Give the following instructions to family, friends, and coworkers:

  • Do not hold me down or place anything in my mouth.
  • Protect me from injury. Remove sharp or hard objects from the area surrounding me, or cushion my head.
  • Time how long my seizure lasts. Call 911 if my seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, I have a second seizure, or I have trouble breathing.
  • Stay with me until my seizure ends. Let me rest until I am fully awake.
  • Do not give me anything to eat or drink until I am fully awake.
First Aid: Convulsions
First Aid: Convulsions

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.