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Alternative namesA seizure is a sudden change in behavior due to an excessive electrical activity in the brain.
There are a wide variety of possible symptoms of seizures, depending on what parts of the brain are affected. Many types of seizures cause loss of consciousness with twitching or shaking of the body. However, some seizures consist of staring spells that can easily go unnoticed. Occasionally, seizures can cause temporary abnormal sensations or visual disturbances.
Seizures can generally be classified as either "simple" (no change in level of consciousness) or "complex" (change in level of consciousness). Seizures may also be classified as generalized (whole body affected) or focal (only one part or side of the body is affected).
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder with recurrent seizures. Some types of epilepsy are hereditary.
Any condition that results in abnormal electrical excitation of the brain may result in a seizure, including:
Also, any medical condition that irritates brain cells may result in a seizure. Common medical conditions that commonly cause seizures include:
People with epilepsy should always wear a medical alert tag.
Most seizures are self-limiting and stop by themselves after various periods of time. However, a person having a seizure may be injured; breathe food, fluid, or vomit into the lungs; or not get enough oxygen. During a seizure, it is important to protect the person from injury. Turn the person on his or her side, so that any vomit is expelled. See seizure first aid .
After a convulsion, most people go into a deep sleep. Don't prevent the person from sleeping. He or she will probably be disoriented, or possibly agitated for awhile after awakening.
Stay with the person until recovery or until you have professional medical help. Meanwhile, monitor their pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure.
Some patients with epilepsy may have a vagal nerve stimulator implanted in their chest. In these persons, a seizure can be halted by activating the device. Other patients may have been prescribed medication to administer rectally during a seizure. Never try to administer anything (even medications) by mouth.
Call your health care provider if
Report all seizures (even a mild one) to the health care provider. If the patient is known to have epilepsy or recurrent seizures, their doctor should be notified so that medications can be adjusted or other instructions given.
If this is the first time a patient has ever had a seizure, or if this an unusually prolonged seizure for someone known to have a seizure disorder, call for emergency transportation to the hospital. These symptoms may represent a life-threatening condition, such as a stroke or meningitis.
The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions to help understand the cause of the seizures, such as:
Medications are often prescribed. Instructions for taking them should be strictly followed. Family members should observe and record any seizures to ensure the patient gets proper treatment.
People with uncontrolled seizures should not drive. Each state has a different law that determines which patients are allowed to drive. People with seizures also should not swim or bike alone.
There is no specific way to prevent seizures. Use helmets when appropriate to prevent head injury. This will lessen the likelihood of a brain injury and subsequent seizures. Avoid recreational drugs. People with epilepsy should take medication as directed and avoid excessive amounts of alcohol.
Update Date: 1/8/2004A.D.A.M. editorial and Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT