What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that can cause a variety of symptoms, including changes in behavior, movements, and sensations. Epilepsy can affect people of all ages and have a range of causes, including head injury, stroke, brain infection, and genetic factors.

Seizures can vary in severity and duration. Some people with epilepsy only experience mild seizures that are barely noticeable, while others may have severe seizures that cause them to lose consciousness or have convulsions. Epilepsy can be hard to figure out because it can be confused with other diseases or disorders.

Treatment for epilepsy typically involves the use of medications called antiepileptic drugs, which are designed to control seizures. In some cases, surgery or other medical procedures may be needed to treat the cause of the seizures. Many people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with the right treatment, allowing them to live normal, active lives.


The symptoms of epilepsy can vary widely depending on the type of seizure and the part of the brain that is affected. Some common symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Uncontrollable jerking movements or muscle spasms
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Staring spells or “blank” periods
  • Sensory disturbances, such as seeing flashing lights or hearing strange sounds
  • Changes in behavior or emotional state
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech

Seizures can last for a few seconds to a few minutes and may occur infrequently or several times a day. Some people with epilepsy only experience one type of seizure, while others may experience different types of seizures at different times.


There are many potential causes of epilepsy, and in many cases, the exact cause is unknown. Some common causes of epilepsy include:

  • Head injury: Trauma to the head, such as a concussion or a skull fracture, can cause scar tissue to form in the brain and lead to epilepsy.
  • Stroke: A stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, can cause brain damage and increase the risk of developing epilepsy.
  • Brain infections: Certain infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis, can damage the brain and lead to epilepsy.
  • Genetic factors: Epilepsy can be inherited, and certain genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing the condition.
  • Developmental disorders: Some developmental disorders, such as autism and cerebral palsy, can increase the risk of epilepsy.
  • Other medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as brain tumors, metabolic disorders, and drug or alcohol abuse, can increase the risk of epilepsy.

In many cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown, and it is referred to as “idiopathic epilepsy.”


The primary treatment for epilepsy is medication, which is typically taken in the form of antiepileptic drugs. These medications work by inhibiting the abnormal brain activity that causes seizures.

There are many different types of antiepileptic drugs available, and the most appropriate medication will depend on the type of seizures a person is experiencing, as well as any underlying medical conditions they may have. 

In some cases, epilepsy may be resistant to treatment with medication, and other medical procedures may be necessary. These procedures may include:

  • Surgery: Surgery can be used to remove a part of the brain that is causing seizures, or to disconnect certain brain areas that are thought to be contributing to the seizures.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation: This procedure involves implanting a small device in the chest that sends electrical signals to the vagus nerve in the neck. The signals are thought to inhibit seizures.
  • Ketogenic diet: This high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to be effective in controlling seizures in some people with epilepsy.

It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment for epilepsy. In many cases, a combination of medications and other medical procedures may be necessary to effectively control seizures.


If you have epilepsy, it’s important to take certain precautions to help prevent seizures and ensure your safety. Some precautions to consider include:

  • Take your medication as prescribed: It’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking your medication, as skipping doses or taking too much can increase the risk of seizures.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet: A medical alert bracelet can help identify you as someone with epilepsy in case of an emergency.
  • Avoid triggers: Some people with epilepsy may have certain triggers that increase the risk of seizures, such as sleep deprivation, alcohol or drug abuse, or certain medications. Avoiding these triggers can help prevent seizures.
  • Stay safe during a seizure: If you experience a seizure, try to find a safe place to rest and wait for the seizure to pass. Avoid standing on high places or near sharp objects, and try to protect your head from injury.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep can help prevent seizures, so it’s important to establish a regular sleep routine.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can increase the risk of seizures, so it’s important to drink enough fluids throughout the day.
  • Avoid driving: If you have epilepsy, you may be at an increased risk of having a seizure while driving, which can be dangerous. It’s important to discuss your driving restrictions with your healthcare provider.

It’s also important to inform your family, friends, and coworkers about your epilepsy, as they may need to know how to assist you during a seizure. It’s also a good idea to have a seizure response plan in place in case of an emergency.

Can I treat my epilepsy with medical marijuana in New York?

In New York, medical marijuana is legal for the treatment of epilepsy, among other qualifying conditions. 

To use medical marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy, you must first obtain a certification from a licensed healthcare provider stating that you have a qualifying condition and that medical marijuana is appropriate for your treatment. You must then register with the New York State Medical Marijuana Program and obtain a registry identification card.

It’s important to note that medical marijuana is not a replacement for traditional epilepsy treatment, such as antiepileptic drugs. Medical marijuana should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

It’s also important to be aware that the use of medical marijuana is still subject to federal restrictions, as marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This means that even in states where medical marijuana is legal, it is still illegal under federal law to use, possess, or distribute marijuana.

It’s important to discuss all treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your epilepsy.


Even if your condition is not listed in this article, you might still get the medical marijuana card, provided you are recommended by a registered marijuana physician in New York. However, if you are experiencing any life-threatening medical condition or adverse effects of medical marijuana, you should not hesitate to contact the emergency service.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.