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Epilepsy is a nervous system (or neurological) disorder in which a person has had two or more seizures that can’t be attributed to another cause. It’s sometimes called seizure disorder and is the third most-common neurological disorder, after stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are several types of seizures. Grand mal seizures cause convulsions and unconsciousness. Lesser-known types can be more subtle. Atonic seizures result in a sudden loss of muscle tone, while absence seizures cause a loss of awareness for short periods of time.
Risk factors for epilepsy include:
If someone near you is having a seizure, do not try to restrain the person or put something in his or her mouth. Contrary to popular belief, a person having a seizure won’t swallow his or her tongue.
You can take steps to help prevent injury, though. Place a pillow or something soft under the person’s head, and move harmful objects out of the way. It’s also helpful to time the seizure. Call 911 if it lasts more than five minutes.
Certain medications can also trigger seizures. If your epilepsy was controlled until you began taking new medication, talk with your doctor.