Why Do You Get a Seizure?
Seizures are triggered by abnormal electrical brain activity. This activity can be caused by epilepsy, stroke, head injuries, brain tumors, certain medications, drug abuse, withdrawal from certain drugs, and other factors. Seizures are identified in two major categories: generalized seizures and focal (also known as partial or local) seizures. Focal seizures occur in a single part of the brain, while generalized seizures occur on both sides of the brain.
Under 10% of people who have a seizure develop epilepsy. Even singular seizures are serious medical concerns and you should have a doctor examine you as soon as possible following a seizure.
How Do You Know that You are Having a Seizure?
What people normally identify as the major symptom of seizures are full body convulsions. However, not all seizures feature this symptom. Other symptoms can include blackouts, staring spells or rapid random eye movements, indiscernible grunts, teeth clenching, among other symptoms.
What Should You Do if You or Someone Near You has a Seizure?
Seizures normally last 30 seconds to a few minutes, and end on their own. If someone nearby you has a seizure, the most important way you can immediately help is find them a safe place to lie down. Then, provide some sort of cushion for their head in case they start having physical convulsions (or already are having them). Look for a medical ID bracelet on their wrist – it might have instructions as to what steps you should take.
What Types of Seizures are There?
While all seizures are classified under generalized or focal, generalized seizures have an additional six subtypes:
- Absence: These are formerly known as petit mal seizures. The physical act of a person who is suffering from an absence seizure could be described as a severe case of daydreaming or “zoning out” or “staring into space.” Absence seizures are brief, usually lasting less than 20 seconds.
- Myoclonic: This type of seizure is described by the afflicted as a series of small electrical shocks that causes various body limbs to jerk suddenly and unpredictably.
- Clonic: In Clonic Seizures, the body performs repeated jerking motions on both sides of the body simultaneously.
- Tonic: These short-length seizures commonly occur during sleep and involve muscles stiffening.
- Tonic-clonic: This is the most well-recognized type of seizure, formally referred to as “Grand-mal” seizures. The afflicted’s body collapses, and nearly 30 seconds later starts suffering physical convulsions commonly associated with the condition. Shortly after, the seizure victim will fall into a deep sleep.
- Atonic: In these seizures, muscles instantly lose all strength and tension. The afflicted will drop whatever items are in their hands and usually fall to the ground.
Partial (focal) seizures, which are produced in smaller areas of the brain, have three sub-types of their own:
- Simple Partial Seizures: Simple Partial Seizures are seizures in which the afflicted retains consciousness and awareness.
- Complex Partial Seizures: In Complex Partial Seizures, the afflicted will lose awareness, often performing involuntary, automated movements.
- Partial Seizures that Secondarily Generalize: Partial (focal) seizures refer to seizures occurring in one or more areas on one side of the brain. When a partial seizure spreads to the other side of the brain it is known to “secondarily generalize.” Partial seizures that secondarily generalize may include spasms or convulsions, decrease in muscle tone, or a loss of muscle tone.
Status Epilepticus is a condition where seizures last longer than they should, or when a seizure occurs immediately following a previous seizure without any significant recovery time for the seizure victim. Seizures that last over five minutes fit under this classification. These seizures are often more dangerous than typical seizures and need to be treated with an additional level of care.
How Can Seizures be Treated?
Treatment for seizures will depend on numerous factors. Does the patient have epilepsy? What types of seizures are they having?
There are multiple types of medication to treat seizures and epilepsy. Usually one of the first few medications a doctor prescribes will allow for you to be seizure and symptom-free. However, there are dietary and surgical treatments that a doctor may advise if the medications are not effective.