What is seizure conditions?

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Seizures: Overview

The brain controls how the body moves by sending out small electrical signals through the nerves to the muscles. Seizures, or convulsions, occur when abnormal signals from the brain change the way the body functions.

Seizures are different from person to person. Some people have only slight shaking of a hand and don't lose consciousness. Other people may become unconscious and have shaking of the entire body.

Shaking of the body doesn't always occur with seizures. Some people who have seizures have symptoms before the seizure (auras). Or they may briefly lose touch with their surroundings and seem to stare into space. The person is awake. But they don't respond normally. Afterward, the person doesn't remember the episode.

Some people will have only one seizure during their lifetime. A single seizure usually lasts less than 3 minutes and isn't followed by a second seizure. Any healthy person can have a single seizure under certain conditions. If you have a first-time seizure, you should be checked by your doctor. It's important to rule out a serious illness that may have caused the seizure.

Causes of seizures

Epilepsy is a nervous system problem that causes seizures. It can occur at any age.

A seizure can be a symptom of another health problem, such as:

  • A fever.
  • An extremely low blood sugar level in a person who has diabetes.
  • Damage to the brain from a stroke, brain surgery, or a head injury.
  • Problems that someone has had since birth (congenital problems).
  • Withdrawal from alcohol, prescription medicine, or illegal drugs.
  • An infection, such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • A brain tumor or structural defect in the brain, such as an aneurysm.
  • Parasitic infections, such as tapeworm or toxoplasmosis.
  • Eclampsia, which is pregnancy-related seizure activity that is related to high blood pressure.
  • Psychogenic non-epileptic seizure (PNES), which is a condition that can cause seizure-like activity related to a mental health issue.

Treatment

Treatment of a seizure depends on what caused it.

Evaluation and treatment after a first seizure: Overview

It can be scary if you or someone you care about has a seizure for the first time.

When you see the doctor, they will try to figure out why you had the seizure. And they will figure out if you need treatment.

Seizures can be caused by lots of things. Examples are infections, epilepsy, medicines, and problems in the brain like a stroke or tumor. So you will have some tests. Most people will have blood tests, an electroencephalogram (EEG), and an MRI. Some people will need other tests, like a CT scan or a lumbar puncture.

Then the doctor will figure out if you need medicine to prevent more seizures. This depends on the chances that you might have another seizure. For example, if your seizure was caused by a medicine, treatment usually isn't needed. After the medicine leaves your body, there's no more risk that you'll have a seizure. But you might need treatment if, for example, your EEG results aren't normal or you have an infection.

Caring for someone after a seizure

No matter what caused the seizure, you can help someone after they've had a seizure.

  • Check the person for injuries.
  • Turn the person onto their side.

    If you couldn't turn the person during the seizure, do it when the seizure ends and the person is more relaxed.

  • Make sure that the person can breathe.

    If the person is having trouble breathing, call 911.

  • Loosen tight clothing around the person's neck and waist.
  • Provide a safe area where the person can rest.
  • Don't give anything to eat or drink until the person is fully awake and alert.
  • Stay with the person until they are awake and familiar with the surroundings.

    Most people will be sleepy or confused after a seizure.

A person who has had a seizure should not drive, swim, climb ladders, or operate machinery until they've seen a doctor about the seizure and the doctor has said it's okay to drive or operate machinery.

Seizure in children without fever or known seizure disorder: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has another seizure during the same illness.
  • Your child has new symptoms. These may include weakness or numbness in any part of the body.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is not acting normally after the seizure.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.