The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

November 17, 2013

Learn the facts about epilepsy

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* Absence. This type may cause brief loss of awareness and usually involve staring and mild, uncontrolled body movements.

* Tonic. These seizures cause your muscles to stiffen, which can make you fall to the ground.

* Clonic. A clonic seizure is characterized by jerking muscles.

* Myoclonic. This type of generalized seizure typically causes your arms and legs to twitch.

* Atonic. People also refer to atonic seizures as “drop” seizures. They often cause people to collapse because of a loss of muscle control.

* Tonic-clonic. A tonic-clonic seizure causes loss of consciousness, stiffening of the body and convulsions. This type of seizure is also called a “grand mal” seizure.

As you can see, there are many types of seizures, some of which are hard to detect. But it’s important to note that not everything that looks like a seizure is actually a seizure. For example, a convulsive syncope refers to a situation when a person faints, then has jerking or shaking movements resembling a seizure.

2. Causes.

Roughly half of people with epilepsy have no detectable root cause. For others, epilepsy can occur because of one of the following reasons:

* Family history

* Head injury

* Brain tumor or stroke

* Disease

* Developmental disorders, such as autism

3. Possible complications.

Because epilepsy causes seizures at unpredictable times, there are a number of possible complications you should be aware of. Some of these complications include:

* Car accidents

* Falling

* Emotional problems

* Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy

4. What you can do.

While there is no cure for epilepsy, there are medications and treatments that help manage your symptoms. Speak with your health care provider about what works best for your course of treatment.

Also, there are a few things that may prompt a seizure in someone with epilepsy. You should:

* Avoid nicotine

* Limit alcohol consumption, if at all

* Get adequate sleep

Andrew Reeves, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System neurologist.For more information, please go to mayoclinichealthsystem.org. Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System.

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