One in every twenty-six people develops seizures in the US. Of these people, ten percent of them have unprovoked seizures. However, one seizure does not mean that you have epilepsy. If you have epilepsy, your seizures can be treated with anti-seizure medication. If that does not work, your doctor might suggest surgery or other types of treatment. You should not ignore mild seizures, as they can be life-threatening during activities such as driving and swimming. You need to visit a doctor when you have a seizure.
What are seizures?
They occur when there is unusual electrical activity in the brain. They may go unnoticed at times. Seizures can either be a one-time occurrence or occur frequently. The recurrent ones are known as epilepsy. Experts usually classify seizures into two broad categories: generalized and partial seizures.
These types of seizures involve both sides of the brain from the beginning of the attack. They are produced by electrical impulses from the whole brain. Subtypes of generalized seizures include:
- Grand Mal seizure – this is the most dramatic and common seizure. When someone has this type of seizure, they usually collapses and loses consciousness. This loss of consciousness is usually accompanied by generalized body stiffening – tonic phase – for thirty to sixty seconds. After this, the patient will lapse into a deep sleep. This type of seizure results in accidents such as urinal incontinence and tongue biting.
- Myoclonic seizures – consist of isolated jerks on both sides of the body. The jerks can be described as brief electrical shocks. Violent myoclonic seizures result in involuntary throwing or dropping of objects.
- Absence seizures – these seizures are characterized by short loss of consciousness. The patient usually stops what they are doing and stares blankly. Aside from losing time, a person may not be aware of the occurrence of absence seizures.
- Atonic seizures – general and sudden loss of muscle tone in the legs and arms; this often results in a fall.
- Clonic seizures – recurring, rhythmic jerks that affect both sides of the body
- Tonic seizures – these seizures consist of muscle stiffening
This is the second most common seizure type. The seizures begin at one part of the brain and remain there or spread to other parts. During ordinary partial seizures, the patient remains conscious. For complex partial seizures, however, impaired consciousness may be experienced.
- Simple partial seizures – they can be further classified into four categories, depending on the symptoms: psychological, autonomic, motor, and sensory. Sensory symptoms include unusual sensations in any of the senses. When seizures cause sensory symptoms, they are referred to as auras. Motor symptoms involve movements such as stiffening and jerking. Psychological symptoms include emotions such as fear and pleasure as well as déjà vu sensations. On the other hand, autonomic symptoms affect your autonomic nervous system, which controls the functioning of your organs: bladder, intestines, and heart. These symptoms include diarrhea, upset stomach, and a racing heart.
- Complex partial seizures – these, by definition, include awareness impairment. The patient seems ‘out of it’ and stares into space during the seizure. In some cases, there are complex symptoms known as automatisms.
What causes seizures?
The real cause of seizures is not known. However, many conditions can provoke them, including cancer, stroke, head injuries, brain infections, electrolyte imbalance and low blood sugar.
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