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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.