About 10 percent of all people, approximately eight million Americans, may experience a seizure during their lifetimes. It is estimated that one to three percent of the population has recurrent seizures, or epilepsy, or seizure disorder.
Sometimes, a clear cause of epilepsy can be identified. A common cause of epilepsy is head injury due to an automobile accident or gunshot wound, and other causes include stroke, infection, poisoning, brain tumors, vascular malformations and developmental abnormalities of the brain. In some cases, epilepsy is genetic. Several types of epilepsy, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, can be cured with surgery, while other types are best treated with medication.
Epilepsy encompasses a group of conditions characterized by recurrent seizures — brief electrical disturbances in the brain that can cause a variety of symptoms such as strange sensations, changes in behavior or emotions, muscle spasms, convulsions, and a sudden loss of awareness or consciousness.
Sophisticated diagnostic techniques, such an encephalograms (EEGs), video-EEG telemetry, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional MRI, are used to assess epilepsy.
Generalized epilepsy: Because these seizures are generalized and do not have a single initiation point, they cannot be cured with surgery, but still may be improved with surgery, such as vagal nerve stimulation and corpus callosotomy. Most patients, particularly those with idiopathic generalized seizures, respond well to anticonvulsant medication.
Partial (or Focal) epilepsy: Close to 50% of patients with partial epilepsy are not completely controlled by medication. Many are amenable to surgery because the source of the seizures can be identified and safely removed. Often defined by their point of origin, partial epilepsy includes frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
There are many different types of epilepsy that are distinguished by causes, extent, and effects. Among these, there are two major types of epilepsy: generalized epilepsy, in which seizures affect the entire brain, and partial (or focal) epilepsy, in which seizures begin in a specific portion of the brain.
Generalized epilepsies have no defined area in the brain from which the seizures originate. There are two varieties of generalized epilepsies:
The seizures caused by generalized epilepsy include:
Partial (focal) epilepsy involve seizures that begin in a region of the most highly developed part of the brain’s hemispheres. While the seizures sometimes are localized, they can spread to become generalized seizures. The seizures caused by these epilepsies, which may spread and become generalized, include:
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