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What is Epilepsy? 

What is Epilepsy?
Chapter:
What is Epilepsy?
Author(s):

Dieter Schmidt

and Simon Shorvon

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198725909.003.0001
Page of

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date: 09 April 2020

The definition of disease is not straightforward. Whilst an epileptic seizure—a symptom—can be considered as an electrochemical cerebral phenomenon, defining epilepsy is more difficult. It is more than just a strictly medical and mechanical brain disorder, but has signification that extends beyond the individual, and has societal and cultural connotation. Disease is sometimes considered to be defined by causation, but deciding what is cause in epilepsy is also a complicated question. The distinction between disability and disease can also be blurred. If definition is difficult, so inevitably is classification. John Hughlings Jackson made the famous distinction between the classification of a gardener and a botanist and the lessons he drew still apply today. The sometimes baffling controversies in this area are dissected, within the context of their historical evolution since the time of Jackson.

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