Research released in March of 2012 indicates 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their lifetime. Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder behind stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. More people have epilepsy than have Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis combined.

Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.

A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life.

Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and cause a change in awareness, movement or sensation. Some seizures make people shake, fall or have convulsions. Other seizures involve staring, confusion, muscle spasms or sensory experiences (sudden changes in feelings, smells, sounds, etc.). Many seizure types do not cause a person to lose consciousness.

Epilepsy can be caused by anything that hurts the brain including head injuries, infections, strokes and brain tumors. In 70% of cases the cause is unknown.

There are many myths about epilepsy. But here’s the truth. People rarely die from having a seizure. Epilepsy is not contagious. Epilepsy is not a mental illness. People having seizures can not swallow their tongues. It is impossible for someone to swallow his tongue. The real concern is that the tongue of a person having a seizure can fall back and block the airway making it hard to breathe. That’s why it is important to turn someone on their side during seizures. Doing this allows the tongue to fall to the side, keeping the airway open.