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.