Seizures Symptoms

Seizures develop when there is an electrical misfire that occurs within the brain.  This abnormal electrical activity indicates a brain problem and can either occur over the entire brain or in a small focused area of the brain. There are two main types of seizures, generalized seizures and partial seizures. Generally, seizures last up to 2 minutes and do not cause the person any harm. Seizures that are greater than five minutes in length warrant immediate medical attention.

What Is A Seizure?

A seizure is the result of an error in the electrical system of the brain. When this blip in the normal controlled activity of the brain occurs, a seizure develops. The surge of unrestrained electrical energy may cause a brief state of unconsciousness and involuntary muscle contractions. Not all seizures cause convulsions; in fact, there are several types of seizures that present with only mild symptoms. Seizures are grouped into two main categories, generalized seizures and partial seizures. They are categorized based on the amount of brain area that experiences the seizure.

  • Generalized seizures occur when there is irregular activity on both sides of the brain.
  • Partial seizures are the result of irregular activity in only one area of the brain.

Symptoms

The type of symptoms exhibited by an individual who is suffering from a seizure will depend on the type of seizure that is being experienced. It is important to understand that not all seizures are accompanied by convulsions and some seizures present with very few symptoms. The type of symptoms associated with generalized seizures will differ from those associated with partial seizures. Possible symptoms include:

Generalized Seizures

  • Grand Mal: Symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions and rigid muscles.
  • Absence: Symptoms include a short period of unconsciousness.
  • Myoclonic: Symptoms include intermittent jolting movements.
  • Clonic: Symptoms include repeated jolting and shaky movements.
  • Tonic: Symptoms include rigid, stiff muscles.
  • Atonic: Symptoms include a loss of muscle tone.

Partial Seizures

  • Simple Motor: Symptoms include jolting movements, rigid muscles, pivoting head and muscle spasms.
  • Simple Sensory: Symptoms include unfamiliar sensations regarding vision, hearing, smell, touch or taste.
  • Simple Psychological: Symptoms include disturbances regarding memory or emotional distress.
  • Complex: Symptoms include a lack of awareness of the episode; repetitive, involuntary yet coordinated movements such as smacking lips, walking, chewing or fidgeting.
  • Partial Seizure with Secondary Generalization: This is a seizure that begins as a partial seizure in which the individual is conscious, which then turns into a generalized Grand Mal seizure with a loss of consciousness and convulsions.

Causes

Seizures can have many different causes. Individuals who experience seizures can do so for a wide variety of reasons. In some cases, the underlying cause can be difficult to determine. In the majority of cases, however, the underlying cause can be identified. Some common causes include:

  • Elevated glucose or sodium levels in the blood.
  • Stroke or head injury.
  • Congenital birth defects or injury to the brain of a child at birth.
  • High fever, especially in children.
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Brain infections including Meningitis, Encephalitis or AIDS.
  • Kidney and liver failure.
  • Use of drugs such as Amphetamines or Cocaine.
  • Withdrawal from daily use of alcohol or drugs.

In some cases no cause can be determined for a seizure. Seizures with no known cause are called Idiopathic Seizures. Idiopathic Seizures can occur at any age, but are more common in children and young adults. When a person has repeated seizures or experiences continued seizures after treatment of the initial cause or underlying medical condition, that person may be diagnosed with Epilepsy.

Risk Factors

Most people who experience seizures or have been diagnosed with Epilepsy lead an otherwise normal life. However, in some cases, a seizure disorder can put that person at risk for injury. People living with Epilepsy should safeguard their home, to reduce the risk of injury during a seizure.  Some ways to ensure safety at home include:

  • Carpet the rooms with thick carpeting.
  • Place cushions over sharp edged furniture.
  • Avoid using space heaters in the home.
  • Be sure the bathtub drain works properly and keep tub water low while bathing.

If during a seizure you or someone you know has had suspected head trauma, it is important to seek medical attention. Signs to watch for if a person has hit his head during a seizure include:

  • Difficulty sustaining consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision or other vision problems
  • Extreme tiredness in the hours following the seizure

Diagnostic Tests

Individuals who have experienced a seizure should contact their doctor, especially if the person has never had a seizure before, or if he has a history of seizures and has just experienced an unusually long seizure. The doctor will likely attempt to diagnose the type of seizure that occurred based upon the reported symptoms at the time of the seizure. Diagnostic tests may be utilized to help rule out certain underlying medical conditions. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • CT or MRI scan of the head
  • EEG
  • Spinal Tap

Treatment

Once the diagnostic tests have been completed, the doctor will then try to determine whether or not to treat the symptoms that occur as a result of the seizure. The doctor may decide to treat the underlying cause of the seizure, if a cause has been determined. On the other hand, the doctor may choose not to treat the symptoms at all. Factors that can influence the decision not to treat include:

  • No prior history of seizures
  • Having one single seizure
  • Diagnostic tests reveal no neurological abnormalities
  • The person is young

If you have a history of seizures and have been diagnosed with Epilepsy, your doctor will likely prescribe an anti-seizure medication. If drug therapy is not successful in preventing and controlling your seizures, your doctor may consider other methods including:

  • Surgery
  • Special dietary changes
  • Complementary Medicine

Considerations

It may be difficult to determine if someone is having a seizure, due to the fact that varying types of seizures can present with different symptoms. If you suspect that you have had a seizure contact your doctor right away. If you have been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, be sure to take your medication regularly. If you are experiencing uncontrolled seizures it may be necessary for you to refrain from certain activities such as driving, swimming, biking or hiking.

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