A seizure is a sudden, unusual electrical activity in the brain. It may go unnoticed or may lead to convulsions, altered consciousness levels, and changes in behavior. Usually, seizures last between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. However, if you experience two or more attacks or have a history of repetitive seizures, you might have epilepsy.
Seizures may strike after a head injury, stroke, meningitis, or other medical emergencies. Patients experiencing this issue for more than 5 minutes need immediate medical attention. With the advancement in medicine, now it is possible to manage seizures with timely treatment. However, it may significantly impact your life. Therefore, appropriate care needs to be taken for a stress-free living.
Types of seizures
Seizures can be focal or generalized, depending on the site of origin in the brain. Check out the various subtypes of this nervous disorder.
When the seizure develops due to an abnormal electrical activity only on one side of the brain, doctors term it a focal seizure. Different types of focal seizures include:
• Focal seizures with impaired awareness
In this type of seizure, some patients do not retain their consciousness. They can stare into space or perform repeated motions, like walking in circles, chewing unnecessarily, and rubbing hands.
• Focal seizures without loss of consciousness
Here, though patients experience sensory function changes like an altered sense of smell, taste, feeling, or transformed emotional state, they retain their awareness. In many cases, sufferers show involuntary jerking of arms and legs. They may even experience tingling sensations, dizziness, and observe flashing lights.
Patients may confuse focal seizures with other neurological issues, like narcolepsy, mental illness, and migraine.
In generalized seizures, all areas of the brain get impacted due to abnormal electrical impulses. Similar to focal seizures, they also have various subtypes.
• Absence seizures
The absence seizure was initially known as petit mal seizure. They usually occur in children, producing subtle body movements like repeated blinking of eyes, lip-smacking, or staring into space. Patients may experience a brief loss of consciousness while undergoing this neurological disorder.
• Tonic seizures
Patients experiencing tonic seizures complain of stiffening of back, arms, and legs muscles. They may topple off the ground while having these attacks.
• Atonic seizures
Atonic seizures are also known as drop seizures as victims may lose balance and suddenly collapse to the ground. They lose control of muscles in this nervous disorder.
• Myoclonic seizures
Myoclonic seizures cause sudden jerks or twitches in the hands and legs.
• Clonic seizures
In clonic seizures, victims show repetitive, jerking, or rhythmic muscle movements in the neck, face, and arms.
• Tonic-clonic seizures
Tonic-clonic seizures were initially termed as grand mal seizures, as victims experienced a dramatic and sudden loss of awareness. They demonstrated stiffening and shaking of body parts, biting the tongue, and even losing bladder control.
The signs and symptoms of seizures
The signs and symptoms of a seizure depend on the type of neurological disorder experienced by the patient. They include:
• Stiffening and loosening of organs, especially limbs.
• Uncontrolled jerking movements of hands and legs.
• Loss of consciousness.
• Spell of staring into space.
• Experiencing fear, anxiety, or euphoria.
• Rapid blinking of eyes.
• Collapsing to the ground.
When to see a doctor for seizures?
It is better to seek medical attention if you are experiencing seizures which:
• Last for more than 5 minutes.
• Associated with a high fever.
• Difficulty in breathing and regaining consciousness even after the seizure stops.
• Occurs in diabetic and pregnant individuals.
• Experiencing an injury during the seizure.
• Undergoing heat exhaustion.
It is also a good idea to anyway consult a neurologist if you experience a seizure for the first time.Book an Appointment with Our Neurologist
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What are the causes of seizures?
Millions of neurons (nerve cells) in the brain remain involved with the creating, transmitting, and receiving electric impulses. These activities help neurons to communicate with each other and control the activities of an individual. However, during a seizure, the communication pathways between the nerve cells get disrupted. They witness an unusual electric impulse in the brain. In most cases, these attacks develop due to epilepsy. However, it is worth pointing out that every individual experiencing a seizure may not be epileptic.
Seizures may even occur due to:
• High fever (mostly associated with infections like meningitis).
• Insufficient sleep.
• Head injury and bleeding in the brain.
• Side effects of antidepressants, painkillers, smoking cessation therapies (these medications reduce the seizure threshold).
• COVID-19 infection.
• Drug abuse.
Can seizures cause any complications?
Complications of seizures include:
• Injury: Patients often injure their heads or fracture their bones because of collapsing during a seizure.
• Drowning: There is a high risk of drowning if a seizure patient experiences an attack while bathing or swimming.
• Car accidents: Seizures can lead to automobile accidents if a victim losses awareness while driving.
• Pregnancy-related complications: Expecting mothers pose a high risk to themselves and the baby if they experience bouts of seizures during the pregnancy. Some anti-epileptic medicines enhance the probability of congenital deformities; hence medication must be administered with caution.
• Depression: Anxiety and depression increase due to seizures.
What can you do to prevent seizures?
It is possible to manage the preventable causes of seizures by limiting alcohol consumption and staying away from recreational drugs.
What are the diagnostic tests for seizures?
Doctors may prescribe the following diagnostic tests for detecting seizures.
- A neurological examination: The neurologist examines the candidates’ behavior, mental functions, and motor abilities to determine whether they are experiencing any malfunctioning in the brain and nervous system.
- Blood tests: Doctors may also prescribe blood tests to check the blood sugar level, presence of infections, and genetic anomalies.
- Lumbar puncture: Doctors may even collect a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid if they suspect an infection as the cause of the seizure.
- An electroencephalogram (EEG): Here, doctors fix electrodes on the scalp to record the electrical activities going on in the brain.
- Computerized tomography (CT): This imaging technique helps detect the presence of tumors, bleeding, and cysts, which can cause seizures.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test reveals lesions or abnormalities in your brain, which might cause seizures.
- Positron emission tomography (PET): This imaging technique helps visualize the different areas of the brain by introducing a minute quantity of low-dose radioactive compound intravenously.
- Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT): In this diagnostic test as well, doctors introduce a small amount of low-dose radioactive compound intravenously to establish the 3-D map of the blood flow in your brain during a seizure.
What are the treatment options for seizures?
The treatment practices for seizures reduce the future occurrence of the abnormal electrical impulses in the brain with minimized side effects. Neurologists try various approaches for managing seizures, including medication, surgery, and therapies.
Finding the best medication for managing seizures is a complicated process. Neurologists assess your medical history, age, associated medical conditions, and complications before selecting the correct drug. They also try to find medicines with minimum side-effects.
If seizure medications fail to provide satisfactory results, doctors try out surgical procedures to manage the symptoms. They include:
• Brain surgery
Surgeons detect the part of the brain associated with seizures and surgically remove the neurons from the spot. This practice is beneficial if seizures originate at a single site in the brain.
• Vagus nerve stimulation
Here, doctors surgically implant a medical device under the chest region. It stimulates the vagus nerve in the neck and transmits impulses to the brain to prevent seizures. However, patients need to continue with their regular seizure medications even after this implant. Doctors may reduce the dose after assessing the current risk of attacks.
• Responsive neurostimulation
In responsive neurostimulation, doctors implant a device on the brain’s surface or within the neurons. It detects abnormal electrical activity in the brain and also transmits stimulation to prevent them in the future.
• Deep brain stimulation
In deep brain stimulation, neurologists implant electrodes in specific areas of your brain to generate electrical impulses and manage the unusual brain activity. A pacemaker-like device, placed under the chest’s epidermis controls the electrodes’ stimulation, as they remain connected together.
You may also follow a diet chart consisting of high fat and low carbohydrate foods to prevent seizures. This type of diet is known as a ketogenic diet, and it has proved helpful in many patients. Dietitians also recommend a modified Atkins diet for limiting seizures as it is less restrictive than the keto diet.
Points to Remember:
Consider the following measures to control seizures:
- Timely medication- Administer the correct doses of the medicine regularly. Never modify or skip the doses without your doctor’s consultation.
- Pay attention to sleep- It is essential to rest adequately to minimize seizure attacks.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet- Neurologists often advise patients to wear a medical bracelet to make the medical personals aware of your treatment protocols.
- Stay active- Indulge in regular exercises to remain physically healthy, and drink a sufficient quantity of water if you get tired during the physical activity.
- Healthy lifestyle choices- Quit smoking, limit alcohol consumptions, and control your stress to avoid seizure attacks.
Personal safety arrangements
You can avoid injuries during seizures by considering the following protective measures:
- Be vigilant near water- Seizure patients should never venture in the water alone for swimming or a leisure boat ride.
- Always wear a helmet- Never forget to wear a helmet while riding automobiles or participating in sports activities.
- Take showers- It is better to avoid a tub while taking a bath. Using a shower is a safe option for seizure candidates.
- Use safe furnishings- Include safe furniture with rounded edges and padded carpets in your house, so that you remain protected even during a fall.
- Seizure first-aid tips- Display a chart containing the seizure first-aid tips and emergency phone numbers at a visible area on the wall.
The bottom line
If you experience seizures, seek immediate medical attention. Take the help of your family members to describe the symptoms if you lose consciousness during the attack. It will help in the correct diagnosis and initiation of suitable treatment strategies.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
1. What are the imaging tests for diagnosing seizures?
Doctors prescribe a range of imaging tests for detecting seizures. They include EEG (electroencephalogram), CT scan (computerized tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography), and SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography). These imaging techniques project a clear picture of the electrical activities occurring in the brain.
2. Is it possible for seizure patients to have a healthy pregnancy?
Yes, seizure patients can also undergo a healthy gestation and give birth to a healthy baby. However, consult your doctor about the doses of seizure medicines during pregnancy. There are chances of congenital deformities like spina bifida due to the side effects of some of the drugs. You physician will prescribe alternative medicine to take care of the condition.
3. What are the lifestyle remedies for seizures?
Engage in physical activities and exercises, get adequate rest, and follow a healthy diet chart consisting of ketogenic or modified Atkins food to limit the chances of suffering from seizures. You may also consider wearing a medical alert bracelet to make medical personnel aware of your health emergencies.