• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Demystifying epilepsy

Epilepsy is a complicated condition that most people are aware of but few know much about.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, and Dr. Joseph Sirven, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, breaks down its prevalence and some of the most common causes.

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Epilepsy can be a jarring condition, and it's more common than you might think.

"Epilepsy can affect anyone at any age," Dr. Sirven says.

In fact, he says 1 out of every 26 Americans has a risk of developing epilepsy.

"Every brain has the potential to have a seizure," Dr. Sirven says. "It just depends on what the circumstances are and what are the conditions around it that may lead to a seizure or epilepsy in some people."

Dr. Sirven says some people are born with epilepsy, while others develop it from head trauma, certain infections, brain tumors, stroke, hemorrhages or even Alzheimer's disease.

He says most epilepsy patients can control their seizures with medication. Others with more severe cases may require surgery. But in some cases where surgery isn't possible, doctors can implant a device similar to a pacemaker for the heart that can control seizures.

Dr. Sirven says even though almost anyone can develop epilepsy, there are some simple things you can do to lower your risk.

"Avoid alcohol. That's No. 1," he says. "Get plenty of sleep. That's another one. And then thirdly is find ways to manage stress."

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