Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

The Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is devoted to caring for patients living with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. The center is made up of a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, specialized nurses and EEG technicians who are all trained to care for patients with epilepsy and seizure disorders.

A seizure occurs when a temporary change in brain activity disrupts regular processing. Seizures may cause abnormal sensations, temporary feelings of disorientation, a sense of lost time, loss of consciousness or uncontrolled body movements. Patients with seizures are often only partially aware of a seizure having occurred.

Seizures or seizure disorders may be described as follows:

  • Epileptic (epilepsy): These seizures have no apparent trigger, and they occur two or more times. Having a single seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. If you have recurring epileptic seizures, then you are considered to have a seizure disorder or epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disease that requires lifetime management.
  • Provoked epileptic seizures: These seizures are triggered by a reversible disorder or a condition that irritates the brain, such as an infection, a stroke, a head injury or a reaction to a drug. Provoked seizures can also be triggered by excessive sleep deprivation, drugs and alcohol, or high temperature. Once this condition is treated, the seizures typically stop.
  • Non-epileptic seizures: A variety of neurologic disorders can lead to symptoms that mimic seizures, such as migraine, fainting spells, or even a stroke, called physiologic non-epileptic events. Additionally, mental disorders can cause symptoms that resemble seizures, called psychogenic non-epileptic events.