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What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the nervous system in which clusters of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain sometimes signal abnormally (electrochemical disturbances). This disturbance of the normal pattern of neuronal activity can cause seizures.

There are four basic types of epileptic seizures:

Petit mal – a mild generalized seizure involving dizziness, disorientation or staring into space. Petit mal seizures are also known by the more contemporary term “absence seizures” because the person experiencing the seizures looks pretty much like they are daydreaming until the seizure has ended. The person is not aware of the seizures or what takes place during the course of the seizure. They may also have memory lapses of periods of time just before and just after the seizure, as well.

Grand mal – a seizure in which there are severe convulsions and loss of consciousness or coma. The contemporary term for Grand mal seizures is “tonic-clonic seizures”.

Jacksonian – spasms mainly limited to one side of the body and often to one group of muscles. These are simple partial seizures. People experiencing these will remain awake and alert through the course of the seizure.

Psychomotor – person engages in motor acts which he or she cannot remember having done.

Epilepsy affects about 100 million people worldwide. Approximately 30% of them have a severe form of the disease that results in more than 100 seizures per day.

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