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Genetics and the Risk of Epilepsy

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About three million people in the United States have epilepsy, with 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. However, having just one seizure does not mean a person has epilepsy. The Mayo Clinic explains that a person must have at least two unprovoked seizures to have epilepsy, meaning the seizures are not caused by a fever or other recognizable cause.

The symptoms of epilepsy depend on the type of seizures that the patient has. For example, a patient who has petit mal seizures, also called absence seizures, have staring spells that last for less than 15 seconds. On the other hand, a patient who has generalized tonic-clonic seizures, also called grand mal seizures, has full body muscle contractions. An electroencephalogram (EEG) can diagnose epilepsy, which detects the abnormal electrical activity in the brain that triggers a seizure.

The Epilepsy Foundation states “in 70 percent of new cases, no cause is apparent.” In cases where the cause is found, epilepsy can occur as a result of brain damage. For example, head trauma, dementia and developmental disorders can result in epilepsy. The Mayo Clinic adds that cerebral palsy and other prenatal injuries cause 20 percent of epilepsy cases in children, and strokes cause 50 percent of epilepsy cases in people ages 65 and over.

Genetics can also play a role in the onset of epilepsy.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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