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Dr. Elizabeth Thiele

Elizabeth Thiele, MD, PhD
Epileptologist, MGH

This is a transcript of a video from the Growing Up with Epilepsy Web site. For more information visit

Dr. Elizabeth Thiele: A seizure is when an area of the brain becomes overexcited and has abnormal discharges which become synchronized, leading to a seizure. So a seizure can occur, theoretically, in any area of the brain. Seizures are very common. About 10% of people will have a single seizure during their lifetime. "Epilepsy" is a word we use if a person has more than a few seizures. So if my hand was "jerking" and it did this on a couple of different times, a couple of different occasions, then I could have epilepsy and that would be my seizure. It's very confusing, because many people think that there is a big difference between a seizure and epilepsy. And unfortunately, the word "epilepsy" in our society and the world has a very significant psychosocial stigma attached to it, when all it simply means is a few seizures.