A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled burst of electrical activity in the brain. It can lead to changes in behavior, movements, feelings and levels of consciousness. Two or more seizures at least 24 hours apart with no known cause are considered epilepsy.
There are many types of seizures and they have a variety of symptoms and degrees of severity. The types of seizures vary depending on where in the brain they start and how far they spread. Most seizures last between 30 seconds and two minutes. A seizure that lasts longer than five minutes is a medical emergency.
Seizures can occur after a stroke or head injury. They can also be caused by an infection such as meningitis or another disease. However, the cause is often unknown.
Most seizure disorders can be controlled with medication. However, treating seizures can affect your daily life. You can work with your doctor to balance seizure control and medication side effects.
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Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. They can also range from easy to difficult. Seizure symptoms can include:
- Temporary confusion.
- A gaze spell.
- Sudden movements of the arms and legs that cannot be controlled.
- loss of consciousness or consciousness.
- Cognitive or emotional changes. They may involve fear, anxiety, or a feeling that you've already experienced that moment, known as déjà vu.
Physicians typically classify seizures as either focal or generalized. Seizures are classified according to how and where the brain activity that caused the seizure began. If providers do not know how the seizures began, they can classify the seizures as unknown onset.
Partial seizures result from electrical activity in one area of the brain. This type of seizure can occur with or without loss of consciousness:
- Focal seizures with impaired consciousness.These seizures involve a change in consciousness or loss of consciousness, or consciousness that appears to be like in a dream. People with these types of seizures may appear awake but stare into space and not reacting to their surroundings. They can perform repetitive movements such as hand rubbing, mouth movements, repeating certain words, or walking in circles. You may not remember the seizure or even know it happened.
Focal seizures without impaired consciousness.These seizures can change emotions. They can also change how things look, smell, feel, taste, or sound. But seizures do not cause loss of consciousness.
During these types of seizures, people may suddenly feel angry, happy, or sad. Some people experience nausea or unusual sensations that are difficult to describe. These seizures can cause difficulty in speaking and involuntary twitching of a part of the body, such as an arm or leg. They can also cause sudden sensory symptoms like tingling, dizziness, and seeing flashing lights.
The symptoms of focal seizures can be mistaken for other disorders of the brain or nervous system. These include migraines, narcolepsy or mental illness.
Seizures that seem to affect all areas of the brain early on are called generalized seizures. The different types of generalized seizures include:
- absence crises.Absence seizures, formerly known as petit mal seizures, are common in children. Absence seizures typically result in a person staring into space or performing subtle body movements, such as B. blinking his eyes or smacking his lips. They usually last 5-10 seconds. These seizures can occur up to a hundred times a day. They can occur in groups and cause brief unconsciousness.
- Tonic seizures.Tonic seizures cause muscles to tighten. These seizures usually affect the muscles in the back, arms, and legs. People who experience these seizures may lose consciousness and fall to the ground.
- Atonic seizures.Atonic seizures, also known as drop seizures, cause a loss of muscle control. People with these types of seizures may suddenly fall over or lower their head.
- clonic seizures.Clonic seizures are associated with repetitive jerky muscle movements. These seizures usually affect the neck, face, and arms on either side of the body.
- The crisis of mioclônicas.Myoclonic seizures usually appear as a sudden twitch or twitch in the arms and legs. Unconsciousness often does not occur.
- Tonic-clonic seizures.Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly known as grand mal seizures, are the most dramatic form of epileptic seizures. They can cause sudden loss of consciousness, body rigidity and tremors. They sometimes cause people to lose bladder control or bite their tongue. They can last for several minutes. Tonic-clonic seizures can also begin as focal seizures, which then spread to most or all of the brain.
When to the doctor
Get medical help right away if you are having a seizure or you see someone else having a seizure and any of the following happen:
- The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- The person does not breathe after the seizure stops.
- A second seizure follows immediately.
- The attack is accompanied by a high fever.
- The attack is accompanied by heat exhaustion.
- The person who had the seizure is pregnant.
- The person who had the seizure has diabetes.
- The seizure resulted in an injury.
If you are having a seizure for the first time, see a doctor.
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The brain's nerve cells, known as neurons, generate, send and receive electrical impulses. This allows the cells to communicate. Anything that breaks the lines of communication can lead to a seizure. Some types of seizure disorders can be caused by genetic changes.
The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy. But not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Seizures can sometimes be caused or triggered by:
- A high fever. When this happens, the attack is called a febrile seizure.
- A brain infection. This can include meningitis or encephalitis.
- Serious systemic illness, including a serious infectionCOVID 19.
- lack of sleep
- Low blood sodium. This can happen with medicines that make you urinate.
- Certain medications used to treat pain, depression or smoking cessation. They can make seizures easier.
- A recent active brain injury, e.g. B. a head injury. Bleeding in an area of the brain or another stroke may occur.
- Use of drugs, legal or illegal, that may be sold on the street, such as amphetamines or cocaine.
- Alcohol abuse, including during extreme periods of withdrawal or intoxication.
Sometimes a seizure can lead to complications that are dangerous to you or others. You may be at risk:
- falling downIf you fall during a seizure, you can injure your head or break a bone.
- Drown.If you have a seizure while swimming or showering, you risk accidentally drowning.
- car accidents.A seizure that results in unconsciousness or the inability to control a conscious vehicle can be dangerous.
- pregnancy complications.Seizures during pregnancy are dangerous for pregnant women and their babies. And certain anti-seizure medications increase the risk of birth defects. If you have epilepsy and are planning to become pregnant, consult your doctor. Your provider can adjust your medications and monitor your pregnancy as needed.
- emotional health problems.People with seizures are more likely to have depression, anxiety, or other emotional health issues. Managing the condition and side effects of antiepileptic drugs can cause these problems.
By Mayo Clinic staff
February 04, 2023