If you or someone you love has recently experienced a seizure for the first time, you are well aware of how overwhelming the episode can be. What’s going on? How can I make it stop? What’s causing this? Please make it stop!
The uncertainty can feel just as awful as the incident itself. The sense of consternation and helplessness can feel crushing. What, exactly, causes seizures? Is there any way to predict the onset? Is there a treatment? Can you put a full stop to them?
The best way to address any situation starts with being well-informed. While it’s imperative to seek medical advice when confronted with a health concern, below is a basic overview to serve as a starting point.
What are Seizures?
Seizures are a neurological disorder that causes a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. This affects muscle movements as well as vision and consciousness.
Although they can happen to anyone, at any age, they are most common in young children. Some causes include:
- High fever
- Physical injury
- Infectious disease
- High blood pressure
- Altered brain development in utero
For some patients, the cause is unknown.
Children sometimes experience a seizure during a high fever, chicken pox, or an ear infection. This is due to abnormal brain activity related to the illness the child is fighting. However, having a seizure does not mean the child has epilepsy. Once cured of the underlying illness, the seizures usually cease.
Types of Seizures
There are different types of seizures.
1. Focal Onset
This happens when abnormal brain activity occurs on one side of the brain. The patient will be aware of what’s going on around them when a part of the body starts to convulse, which may gradually move to other parts of the body.
There are two types of focal onset seizures: (a) Focal Aware Seizure: The patient will not lose consciousness, and the seizure only lasts for one minute or less. (b) Focal Impaired Awareness: Prior to the seizure, the patient may feel nauseous and during the seizure, they may lose consciousness. This type of seizure can last for several minutes. Afterward, the patient will be confused.
2. Generalized Onset
This type of seizure happens when abnormal brain activity occurs on both sides of the brain. These are the most common and the type that people typically picture when thinking of epilepsy. The entire body convulses while the patient is unconscious. The patient’s eyes roll up and they may bite their tongue, hard. Their skin tone may change color, and their breathing may become obstructed. To keep the patient from choking, roll them onto their side.
Since there are so many different types of seizures, symptoms vary. They may also be different from one age group to another. However, it’s good to be vigilant about the following signs:
Seizure Symptoms in Babies:
It may not be completely obvious when a baby has a seizure, since a lot of babies’ movements are involuntary. However, some signs of a seizure include:
- Change in breathing pattern
- Inability to focus attention
- Stiff limbs
- Unusual movement of eyelids
- Limp and unresponsive
Seizure Symptoms in Young Children:
- Staring into space
- Loss of bladder control
- Falling for no apparent reason
- Non-responsive to noise
Seizure Symptoms in Adults:
- Muscle contractions
- Rapid heart rate
- Tingling skin
- Vision changes
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor the first time you have a seizure. This is crucial to determine whether the incident was caused by a health condition, and if there’s a chance of reoccurrence.
Seizure Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors are usually able to diagnose the type of seizure based on the patient’s recollection of symptoms prior to the event. However, since some seizures are a result of an underlying health condition, a medical provider will most likely order blood tests, imaging scans, an encephalogram, and/or a spinal tap.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to control seizures. However, some people only experience one seizure and never have one again. Therefore, the doctor may take a “wait and see” approach before prescribing anti-seizure meds.
The doctor may recommend lifestyle adjustments to lower the likelihood of another seizure, such as:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can trigger seizures.
- Exercise. Consult with your doctor about activities that should be off-limits.
- Stay hydrated. Severe dehydration can lead to a seizure.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet. Include the name and contact information of an emergency contact in case you lose consciousness.
Complications of seizures vary:
- Memory loss
- Injured tongue or cheeks due to biting during a seizure
- Injuries from hitting body parts during a seizure
- Drowning if swimming or bathing when a seizure occurs
- Sleep apnea
- Psychological disorders
- Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas
If you’re suffering from seizures, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.
Find the Complete Care location nearest you.