Epilepsy is a generalized term used to describe a tendency for seizures. Although there are numerous types of seizures, people with epilepsy usually only experience one specific type. Epilepsy is not contagious in any way and is a purely neurological disorder.
Epilepsy is a complex condition and can has a number of apparent sources. These sources include strokes, childbirth complications, infections, head trauma, and genetic disorders. The true cause of epilepsy is not fully known, therefore it is often referred to as idiopathic or cryptogenic.
A seizure occurs when abnormal electrical activity in the brain triggers involuntary changes in physical movements, sensation, awareness, and/or behavior. A seizure usually lasts from a few seconds to several minutes, eventually subsiding without intervention. Common types of seizures include grand mal, in which a person can lose consciousness and fall to the ground before experiencing uncontrollable muscle jerks. A person with a petit mal seizure might not exhibit any externally noticeable symptoms and feel disoriented or dazed.
Epilepsy is difficult to prevent and, in many cases, impossible. The best method is to protect yourself from potential head trauma by wearing helmets while engaging in extreme sports, wearing your seat belt in cars, and wearing a helmet in a dangerous workplace.
Approximately 2 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of epilepsy. New cases are most commonly found in young children and the elderly.
To treat epilepsy, doctors can prescribe anti-epileptic medication that reduces instances of seizures. In other cases, surgery can effectively reduce instances of seizures. A more recently developed treatment involves implanting an electrical impulse generator in the shoulder that stimulates a cranial nerve.