Consumer Health: What do you know about epilepsy?

a close-up of a smiling middle-aged mother and teenage son in their kitchen

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, which makes it a good time to learn more about epilepsy.

This neurological disorder affects about 3.4 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can develop epilepsy. It affects people of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.

With epilepsy, brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. Seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Signs and symptoms of seizures may include temporary confusion, staring, uncontrollable jerking movements of the limbs, and loss of consciousness or awareness.

Medication is generally the first course of treatment for epilepsy. Finding the right medication or combination of medications, and the optimal dosages, can be complex. Your health care provider will consider your overall health, the frequency of your seizures and your age when choosing which medications to prescribe. If medication trials are not successful, your health care provider may propose surgery, vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with epilepsy, here’s what you need to know.

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