The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

November 17, 2013

Learn the facts about epilepsy

Many people believe that having a seizure involves convulsions, shaking and essentially passing out for a period of time. And others think that if you have a seizure, you must be epileptic. Both assumptions are incorrect. There are various causes of a seizure, with epilepsy being one. Epilepsy is characterized as unprovoked, recurrent seizures and is a disorder of the nervous system where your brain’s nerve cell activity is disrupted, resulting in a seizure.

The lifetime risk of developing epilepsy is just under 3 percent, and lifetime risk of having a seizure, from any cause, is about 9 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 150,000 new epilepsy diagnoses occur annually in the United States.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, making it an ideal time to learn more about the condition.

1. Symptoms and types of seizures.

Categorized as a spectrum disorder because of the wide range of causes and effects, epilepsy impacts people differently. Some common symptoms of a seizure include:

* Uncontrolled jerking movements of the arms and legs

* Short-term confusion

* Psychological symptoms

* Loss of awareness

* Becoming unconscious

Though these are general symptoms, physicians typically separate seizures into two categories, focal or generalized. Both result from abnormal brain activity.

* Focal seizures. Also known as a partial seizure, this is a seizure that is focused in one area of the brain. There are two types of focal seizures:

* Simple. This type can alter emotions and other senses but does not cause loss of consciousness.

* Dyscognitive. Often altering consciousness or awareness, dyscognitive seizures can cause staring spells and unnecessary movements, such as chewing, swallowing or walking in circles.

* Generalized seizures. Where focal seizures are in one area of the brain, generalized seizures indicate that all areas of the brain are involved. There are six types of generalized seizures:

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