Difference Between Seizure and Epilepsy

Key Difference – Seizure vs. Epilepsy

A seizure is an abnormal electoral activity of the brain which may or may not manifest as convulsions (abnormal movements), sensory abnormality, or autonomic and higher function abnormalities. Epilepsy is referred to diagnosed seizure disorder of a patient. Epilepsy can be idiopathic or secondary to a recognized structural abnormality of the brain. The key difference between seizure and epilepsy is that a seizure can be due to a systemic cause affecting the brain or local causes affecting the brain, but epilepsy is usually due to a structural abnormality of the brain.

What is Seizure?

The human brain consists of millions of neurons connected to each other. Electrical activity of these neurons is important for normal functioning of the brain. Sometimes these neuroses can discharge inappropriately causing abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. These may result in various external manifestations depending on the affected part of these brain. For example, seizure activity can lead to abnormal motor activity or convulsions, loss of consciousness, sensory abnormalities, etc. Usually, seizure activity lasts for few seconds to minutes. However, sometimes it can last longer which is called status epilepticus. Electrical activity of the brain can be detected using electroencephalogram (EEG). Seizures can occur due to systemic causes such as metabolic or electric abnormalities as well as due to intracranial causes such as tumors, infarctions, contusions the following trauma, hematomas, etc. Seizures need to be controlled as soon as possible as it can lead to further brain damage due to a repetitive discharge of neurons. Anticonvulsant therapy is used in the treatment of seizures. Seizures need proper evaluation and treatment by a medical practitioner.

Difference Between Seizure and Epilepsy

EEG Recording Cap

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is where a patient is diagnosed with seizure disorder. It can be congenital epilepsy or acquired epilepsy. Congenital epilepsy can be familial idiopathic or due to brain injury during or before birth. Epilepsy is usually related to a structural abnormality of the brain. Patients with epilepsy need proper evaluation by a neurologist. They need long term treatment and proper compliance with the treatment. Epilepsy can affect social life of the patient and has many implications for education, marriage, occupation, etc. However, with proper management they can spend a near normal life. They need special attention during family planning, and pregnancy as drugs can have various harmful effects on these situations. Long-term anticonvulsant therapy and follow-up are a must in these patients. Other than the drug treatment newer method of treatments such as deep brain stimulation with devices, epilepsy surgery is under trials.

 Difference Between Seizure and Epilepsy_EEG

What is the difference between Seizure and Epilepsy?


A seizure is defined as the abnormal electrical activity of the brain.

Epilepsy is defined as diagnosed seizure disorder in a patient.


A seizure can be due to systemic cause affecting the brain or local causes affecting the brain.

Epilepsy is usually due to a structural abnormality of the brain.


Single seizure with a known cause does not need extensive investigations. However, an abrupt seizure in an adult needs proper assessment as it could be the first manifestation of a brain tumor.

Epilepsy needs systematic investigations to establish a cause.

Duration of Treatment:

A single seizure does not need long-term treatment.

Epilepsy needs long term treatment.


A single seizure does not need long-term follow-up.

Epilepsy needs long term follow up.

Social life:

Patient with a single seizure attack does not need to have limitations in social life.

Epilepsy patients need some limitations such as avoidance of high-risk occupations etc.


Image Courtesy:

1. “EEG Recording Cap” by Chris Hope [CC BY 2.0] via Commons

2. Drugs.com [Internet]. Epilepsy from Drugs.com; c2000-15 [Cited: 2015 November 19]. Available from: http://www.drugs.com/health-guide/epilepsy.html.