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Seizures and epilepsy

  • What is epilepsy?

    Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that occurs when an individual has two or more unprovoked seizures, or a single seizure and risk factors that make it likely that more seizures will occur. An unprovoked seizure is a seizure that is not caused by a reversible medical condition such as low blood sugar or alcohol withdrawal.

    More than 2.2 million Americans have epilepsy. In fact, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the U.S., after migraine, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Epilepsy can affect people at any age or stage of their life, but occurs more frequently in children under the age of 1 and older adults. Seizures and epilepsy can be serious and lead to injuries, life-threatening emergencies and even death.

    If you or someone you know has epilepsy, we can help. 

    Allina Health offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment options for children and adults with seizures, including new onset or first-time seizures, and spells of altered consciousness. Patients receive care from specialists with expertise in treating epilepsy, physiological and psychological non-epileptic events, and brain tumors.

    Most people can achieve good seizure control through medication or other treatment. If seizures haven’t been controlled after 12 months of treatment, or after trying a second medication, patients are advised to see a specialist. 

  • More about epilepsy and seizures

    A seizure is a disruption of the brain’s normal function caused by abnormal electrical activity that affects the neurons (nerve cells) of the brain. Seizures can cause loss of consciousness, abnormal sensations, movements or behaviors. A seizure is a temporary event that may indicate that there is a problem or disease involving the brain.  

    There are many types of seizures but they are generally classified as either focal or generalized. Focal seizures begin with abnormal electrical activity in one area of the brain, and are sometimes described by people as “strange” spells or episodes. Generalized seizures begin with abnormal electrical activity involving the whole brain. Seizures vary greatly in their appearance and can affect different people in different ways.

    expand to learn moreFocal seizures without loss of awareness or consciousness

    expand to learn moreFocal seizures with loss of awareness or consciousness

    expand to learn moreTypes of generalized seizures

  • Reviewed by: Patricia E. Penovich, MD, Minnesota Epilepsy Group
    First published: 04/04/2016
    Last reviewed: 03/25/2016