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Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures that can range from brief lapses of attention or muscle jerks to severe and prolonged convulsions. More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and 80% of those people live in developing regions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.4 million people in the United States have active epilepsy. While symptoms of epilepsy may vary among cases, the disorder always causes seizures, which are periods of sudden irregular electrical activity in the brain that can affect a person’s behavior.

Epilepsy seizures, symptoms and causes

Epilepsy is classified into four categories, said Dr. Jacqueline French, a neurologist who specializes in treating epilepsy at NYU Langone Health. Idiopathic epilepsy (also called primary or intrinsic epilepsy) is not associated with other neurologic disease, and has no known cause except possibly a genetic one. Acquired (or secondary) epilepsy can arise from prenatal complications, traumatic brain injury, stroke, tumor and cerebrovascular diseases.

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