What is the difference between Seizures and Epilepsy?

What is a seizure?

To understand the aspects of seizure we need to be clear about the working of the brain. Please note that the brain works due to the electrical activity and electrical impulses that are passed on through the neurons. These interactions can be observed and assessed through an electroencephalogram. When there is an abnormal impulse of electrical activity through the brain and the neurons, the same results in seizures, abnormal movements or behavior. However, not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Seizures are a major symptom of patients suffering from epilepsy.

Seizures and Epilepsy

In most brains, neuron interactions occur in a chaotic but balanced, orderly fashion with few disruptions. Occasionally, small disruptions (neuron misfires) may occur with little consequence. When multiple cells misfire at the same time – depending on the severity and location of the brain – it may cause muscle twitches and spasms. This is a seizure. A seizure is defined as a sudden, electrical discharge in the brain causing alterations in behavior, sensation, or consciousness.

The difference between “epilepsy” and “seizures”

Many believe that having a seizure equates to having epilepsy. Although the two terms are often used simultaneously, a seizure (which is a single occurrence) is different than epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a disease of the brain defined by any of the following conditions

  • A least two unprovoked (or reflex) seizures occurring >24 h apart
  • One unprovoked (or reflex) seizure and a probability of further seizures similar to the general recurrence risk (at least 60%) after two unprovoked seizures, occurring over the next 10 years
  • Diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome

Epilepsy is considered to be resolved for individuals who had an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome but are now past the applicable age or those who have remained seizure-free for the last 10 years, with no seizure medicines for the last 5 years. Epilepsy is a relatively common condition, affecting 0.5% to 1% of the population.

A seizure is an event but Epilepsy is the disease associated with spontaneously recurring seizures.