Epilepsy is a disorder that causes abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which leads to repeated seizures. About one in 100 Americans has had at least a single seizure been diagnosed with epilepsy. A person having a seizure may experience jerking, uncontrolled movements, loss of consciousness, confusion, staring spells or muscle spasms.

There are three basic types of seizures:

  • Grand mal seizures: This type of seizure affects the whole brain. During the seizure, the muscles in the body become stiff, and then begin to shake. The person having the seizure usually faints.
  • Petit mal seizures: This type of seizure affects the whole brain, and usually only lasts a few seconds. During the seizure, a person may stare, be unaware of his or her surroundings, suddenly stop talking or moving, or have abnormal muscle movements.
  • Partial seizures: This type of seizure affects only one part of the brain. The symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected, but may include staring, abnormal body or eye movements, hallucinations, increased heart rate, dilated pupils and sweating.

Epilepsy has many possible causes, including illness, brain injury, and abnormal brain development. In many cases, the cause is unknown.