Seizures: Causes, Types, Symptoms, and It’s Treatment

What is a seizure?

A seizure is said to be a sudden or abrupt burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between the brain cells, also known as neurons or nerve cells, that can cause temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movements. It can also be defined as abnormal electrical activity in the brain that happens without warning and may even go unnoticed. It results in changes in behavior, movements, or feelings; in serious cases, it may even cause unconsciousness and convulsions. If a seizure can happen just once or recur. A recurring seizure is called epilepsy, and according to statistics, 1 out of 10 with seizures has epilepsy.

Types of Seizures 

Primarily there are three kinds of seizures-

Focal Onset Seizures

A focal onset seizure occurs only in one area of the brain and may also be called a partial seizure. These can start in small areas of the brain, which could be a single lobe but may affect large areas. At first, you may feel minor symptoms (which are referred to as aura), but more symptoms may appear as they spread. Focal onset seizures can be caused by any focal injury that leaves scar tangles. The seizures that cause altered or changed awareness are called focal unaware seizures or complex partial seizures while medical professionals divide focal seizures into two types-

Focal-aware seizure – During this seizure, you will likely remain fully conscious and aware of the seizure. The symptoms will depend on the location of the seizure.

Focal impaired-awareness seizures – This type of seizure affects your consciousness and makes it difficult to move, talk or hear. Likely, you won’t remember the event either. Focal impaired-awareness seizures can last up to 2 minutes and generally affect a larger portion of the brain when compared to focal aware seizures.

Generalized Onset Seizures 

These seizures tend to happen on both sides of the brain. They are surges of abnormal nerve discharges throughout the brain’s cortex, more or less at the same time. The most common cause is an imbalance in the brain’s inhibitory circuits or brakes and excitatory circuits of the electrical activity. In some cases, a generalized seizure may have a genetic component. Sleep deprivation or drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase the excitatory response and increase the risk of seizures. Medical professionals have divided generalized onset seizures –

Tonic – Tonic seizures result in your muscles stiffening up. These affect muscles in your back, legs, and arms and may cause you to lose consciousness and fall to the ground.

Clonic – Clonic seizures are linked with repeated or rhythmic jerking or muscle movement. These seizures also affect the neck and arms on both sides of the body and face.

Tonic-Clonic – Tonic-Clonic seizures, also known as grand mal seizures, are the most dramatic type of seizures that are epileptic. They can cause loss of consciousness, body stiffening, and shaking. In some cases, it may even cause loss of bladder control or biting your tongue and may last several minutes.

Absence seizures – These are also known as petit mal seizures, which often occur in children and are characterized by staring into space or mild and subtle body movements like lip smacking or eye blinking. These last for a few seconds but may frequently happen throughout the day, and they may cause a brief loss of awareness and may occur in clusters.

Atonic seizures – Atonic seizures are also called drop seizures as they cause loss of muscle control resulting in sudden collapse where you may fall or drop your head.

Myoclonic seizures – These appear as sudden or abrupt jerks or twitches of your arms and legs and are, in most cases, not accompanied by loss of consciousness.

Febrile seizures – Febrile seizures are convulsions a child may have from a high fever caused by an infection. These generally can last for a few minutes but are usually harmless.

Infantile spasms – As the name suggests, these seizures happen to infants and usually stop by age 4. Infantile spasms suddenly cause a child’s body to stiffen, and their head goes forward. However, doctors have noticed that children with infantile spasms develop epilepsy later in life.

Symptoms of a Seizure

It is possible for someone to experience both focal and generalized seizures simultaneously or one after the other. The symptoms of a seizure can last for a few seconds to several minutes. It is advised that if your seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes, you should immediately call for medical help.

Symptoms before the seizure –

  • A sudden feeling of fear or anxiety
  • A sudden feeling of being sick in your stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Change in vision
  • Jerky movement of the arms and legs
  • An “out of body” sensation
  • Headache
  • Deja vu

Symptoms during a seizure – 

  • Losing consciousness
  • Uncontrolled muscle spasms
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • Falling
  • Having a strange taste in your mouth
  • Clenching the jaw
  • Biting your tongue
  • Sudden rapid eye movement
  • Making unusual noises like grunting
  • Losing control of bladder or bowel function

What can cause a seizure?

Seizures can be a result of multiple health conditions as anything that affects the body may also disturb the brain and trigger a seizure –

  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Brain infections like meningitis
  • Brain injury during childbirth
  • Brain defects since birth
  • Choking
  • Substance use
  • Electrolyte imbalance or kidney or liver failure
  • Electric shock
  • Vascular abnormality in the brain
  • Stroke or brain tumor
  • Extremely high blood pressure levels or low blood glucose levels
  • Genetically transferred

Medication to treat Seizures

FDA approves Lorazepam or Ativan to treat all types of seizures, including absence, myoclonic, atonic or drop attacks, partial seizures, and seizures linked with Lennox-gastaut syndrome. Clonazepam or Klonopin is also used to prevent and control seizures or fits caused due to epilepsy, involuntary muscle spasms, panic disorder, and even restless leg syndrome. They are benzodiazepines that decrease abnormal overactivity in the brain and produce a calming and relaxing effect in the body.

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