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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Epilepsy

Description: Sometimes called a seizure disorder, epilepsy is a chronic medical condition produced by temporary changes in the electrical function of the brain, causing seizures which affect awareness, movement, or sensation. A single seizure can have many causes, such as high fever or lack of oxygen or poisoning; epilepsy refers to seizures that occur more than once, without a special cause.

Symptoms: Epilepsy can be difficult to detect in children. Signs of seizures include sudden falls for no reason, lack of response to noise or to spoken words for brief periods, dazed and confused behavior, unusual sleepiness and irritability when wakened in the morning, head nodding, rapid blinking and staring. Other warnings of seizures include frequent complaints of things appearing strange -- how they look, sound, taste, smell, or feel. Other telltales are episodes of fear that have no observable cause; sudden stomach pain followed by confusion and sleepiness; a blank stare followed by chewing, picking at clothes, random movements, and a nunresponsiveness to surroundings; and sudden muscle jerks.

Number of Americans diagnosed: Some 50 million people worldwide and 2.5 million Americans have epilepsy.

Long-term problems/treatments: Long-term drug treatment is usually initiated in children and adults who have had two or three seizures. About 80% of epileptic seizures can be controlled using a single-drug regimen.
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