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Comprehensive Guide to Seizures: Symptoms, Treatment, Types, and Causes

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Seizures are a neurological phenomenon that affects millions worldwide. They can occur unexpectedly and affect people of all ages and backgrounds. In this article, we discuss the complexities of seizures and explore their triggers, symptoms, seizure types, and treatment options, providing you with vital knowledge for better seizure management.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain that causes temporary changes in behaviour, movements, consciousness, or sensation. It may present as convulsions, muscle spasms, or altered awareness, and these seizures can vary widely in intensity, duration, and effects.

What Happens During a Seizure?

During a seizure, the brain experiences abnormal electrical discharges that disrupt its normal activity. This disruption can cause the neurons to fire rapidly and uncontrollably, leading to various seizure symptoms.

When seizures originate from a particular region of your brain, the early signs often correspond to the functions governed by that area. Since the right hemisphere of your brain governs the left side of your body, and vice versa, symptoms typically manifest on the opposite side. For instance, if a seizure originates in the right hemisphere, affecting the area responsible for thumb movement, it might begin with involuntary movements or jerking of your left thumb or hand.

What is the Difference Between Seizures and Epilepsy?

Seizures and epilepsy are related but distinct.

A seizure is a single occurrence of abnormal electrical activity in your brain. Epilepsy, however, is a neurological disorder characterised by recurrent seizures. While seizures can be a symptom of epilepsy, not all seizures indicate epilepsy.

What are the Types of a Seizure?

Seizure types are mainly classified as focal seizures and generalised seizures.

  • Focal seizures originate in a specific area of your brain. They can be further categorized into:
    • Focal aware seizures: These seizures do not affect awareness or consciousness but may cause unusual sensations or movements.
    • Focal impaired awareness seizures: These seizures cause confused behaviour or loss of awareness.
  • Generalized seizures involve both hemispheres of your brain and include:
    • Absence seizures: These typically occur in children and involve brief lapses in consciousness, often accompanied by staring spells.
    • Tonic-clonic seizures: These seizures are characterised by muscle stiffening (tonic phase) followed by rhythmic jerking (clonic phase) and loss of consciousness.
    • Other generalised seizure types include atonic seizures (loss of muscle tone), clonic seizures (repetitive jerking movements), tonic seizures (muscle stiffness), and myoclonic seizures (sudden, brief muscle jerks).

What are the Causes of a Seizure?

Common seizure causes include:

  • Epilepsy; a chronic neurological disorder that is characterised by recurrent seizures.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), stroke, brain tumour, etc., can cause seizures
  • Some seizures have a genetic basis.
  • Imbalances in electrolytes (such as sodium or calcium), glucose levels, or metabolic disorders like hypoglycaemia or uraemia can trigger seizures.
  • Developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may increase the risk of seizures.
  • Brain infections such as encephalitis or meningitis can cause inflammation and trigger seizures.
  • Congenital brain malformations, vascular malformations, or scar tissue from previous injuries are common seizure causes.
  • Sometimes, seizures occur in young children during high fevers and are usually benign but may indicate an underlying infection.
  • Sleep deprivation, stress, hormonal changes, or flashing lights (in photosensitive epilepsy) can also trigger seizures if you are susceptible.

What are the Symptoms of a Seizure?

Seizure symptoms can vary depending on the type of seizure. However, common seizure symptoms include:

  • Temporary confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of your arms and legs
  • Staring spells or blank expressions
  • Muscle stiffness or rigidity
  • Sensory changes such as tingling sensations, smells, or tastes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Lip smacking or repetitive movements
  • Fear and anxiety

What are the Stages of a Seizure?

Seizures can typically be divided into several stages, although not all seizures progress through each stage. Seizure stages may include:

  • Prodrome: You may experience subtle changes hours or days before a seizure occurs, such as mood swings, irritability, or changes in appetite or energy levels.
  • Aura: This stage involves sensory or perceptual disturbances that serve as a warning sign of an impending seizure.
  • Ictal phase: The ictal phase refers to the actual seizure activity. During this stage, you may experience various symptoms depending on the seizure type.
  • Postictal phase: Following the seizure, the postictal phase occurs, during which you may experience confusion, fatigue, headache, muscle soreness, or other symptoms. This phase can last minutes to hours and gradually resolves as the brain activity returns to normal.

Note that not all seizures follow this exact sequence, and the experience may vary depending on factors such as seizure types and the underlying seizure cause.

What Should I Do If Someone I’m With Has a Seizure?

If someone has a seizure:

  • Stay calm and ensure their safety by removing nearby hazards
  • Gently guide them to the ground if they are standing
  • Protect their head and loosen tight clothing
  • Time the seizure and stay with them until it ends
  • Call for medical assistance if necessary

When to See a Doctor?

See a doctor if you experience a first-time seizure or if seizures become more frequent, severe, or prolonged. Also, seek medical attention if seizures occur after a head injury, during pregnancy, or if you have an underlying medical condition

How is a Seizure Diagnosed?

Seizure diagnosis involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. These may include neurological exams, tests to measure brain activity, and blood tests to check for underlying causes.

What Tests Will be Done to Diagnose This Condition?

To diagnose seizures, doctors may conduct several tests, including:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): Measures electrical activity in your brain to detect abnormal patterns associated with seizures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scans: These imaging tests can identify structural abnormalities in your brain that may be causing seizures.
  • Blood Tests: To check for electrolyte imbalances, infections, or other metabolic disorders that could trigger seizures.
  • Neuropsychological Tests: Assess cognitive function, memory, and other aspects of brain function that may be affected by seizures.
  • Video EEG Monitoring: Involves continuous EEG recording along with video surveillance to capture and analyse seizure activity over an extended period.

How is a Seizure Treated?

Seizure treatment on their underlying cause, type, and frequency. Treatment options include:

  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • A ketogenic diet may help control seizures, particularly in children with epilepsy who have not responded to medications.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation involves a device implanted under the skin of your chest that sends electrical impulses to your brain via the vagus nerve, helping to reduce seizure frequency and severity.
  • Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) involves implanting a device in your brain that detects and responds to abnormal electrical activity, disrupting seizures before they occur.
  • In rare cases, surgery may be considered for seizure treatment.

How to Prevent Seizure?

Preventing seizures involves managing underlying conditions such as epilepsy or addressing triggers that may precipitate seizures. This includes adhering to:

  • Prescribed medications
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep
  • Stress management
  • Avoiding alcohol or recreational drugs

What Can I Expect if I Have Seizures?

If you have seizures, you can expect a range of experiences depending on factors such as the type, frequency, and severity of your seizures.

  • You may undergo medical evaluations and follow a personalised treatment plan aimed at managing your condition and improving your quality of life.
  • It is important to prioritise self-care and implement strategies to minimise seizure triggers and risks.
  • Additionally, you may seek support from loved ones and educate yourself about your condition to better understand and cope with seizures.

Conclusion

Understanding the biology of seizures is necessary for effective management. By recognising symptoms, knowing how to respond, and seeking appropriate medical care, you can tackle seizures with greater confidence. If someone is affected by seizure episodes frequently, do not neglect it. Get a comprehensive blood test done at Metropolis Healthcare to check for electrolytic or metabolic imbalances that might be causing it. Metropolis Healthcare strives to provide you with accurate, affordable diagnostic services that are second to none. So do not delay—book the test today!

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