What Is a Seizure: A Guide to Understanding it

Dr. Sneha Ganatra
November 17, 2020

Seizures are serious medical conditions that generally require medication to be controlled. Simply put, they’re changes in the brain’s electric activity, which can bring out about noticeable symptoms linked to a specific type of seizure. Meaning, not all seizures have the same effect on the body and having one is usually a clear sign of underlying health conditions. However, in some cases, it is possible to experience a seizure due to natural causes rather than as a result of specific medical conditions. This is termed as a seizure disorder and knowing this distinction is key to proper management of seizures.

Moreover, understanding what causes seizures can help you reduce the chance of occurrence, and this is why it is important to have the right information. This way, you can learn to identify possible warning signs and stay informed about the best ways to handle such episodes. Here are a complete guide to the different types of seizures, their causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is a seizure?

By definition, a seizure is an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain that is usually sudden and uncontrolled. As a result, the body may experience changes in movement, behaviour or levels of consciousness. Seizures always begin in the brain and usually last anywhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. However, in more severe cases, it is possible to experience a seizure that lasts up to 5 minutes. Such cases are medical emergencies demanding immediate care.

What is seizure disorder?

Generally, a person can have either provoked or unprovoked seizures. Provoked seizures are those that arise due to stroke or injury of some sort, whereas unprovoked seizures are more due to natural causes. A patient is only diagnosed to have a seizure disorder when they experience two or more unprovoked seizures. Natural causes for unprovoked seizures can be metabolic imbalances or even genetic factors. For this reason, understanding the seizure disorder meaning is important as it help you get better treatment or a quicker diagnosis.

What are the types of seizures?

There are two broad categories of seizures and they are:

  • Focal seizures
  • Generalised seizures

Focal seizures are those that are caused due to abnormal electrical activity in a given area of the brain. These can sometimes occur with a loss of consciousness or some form of impaired awareness. Those that experience focal seizures may have altered emotions or sensory symptoms like dizziness or flashing lights. Some may also notice a change in the way things smell, look, feel, taste or sound. Additionally, there may be some form of involuntary jerking of the arm or leg. With impaired awareness, focal seizures cause the afflicted to respond abnormally to the environment, lose focus and perform actions repeatedly.

On the other hand, generalised seizures are those that involve all areas of the brain and are split into 6 different types of seizures. They are as follows:

  1. Tonic-clonic seizures: These are epileptic seizures that cause a loss of consciousness and bladder control in combination with shaking and body stiffening. In some cases, it can be so violent that the affected may bite down on the tongue.
  2. Clonic seizures: These are seizures that result in rhythmic or repeated jerking muscle movements in the neck, arms and face.
  3. Tonic seizures: Such seizures cause stiff muscles and can cause the affected to fall to the ground. The muscles affected usually are the back, legs, and arms.
  4. Atonic seizures: Also known as drop seizures, those affected lose muscle control and may suddenly collapse.
  5. Myoclonic seizures: These are usually sudden and brief jerks or twitches of the legs and arms.
  6. Absence seizures: Otherwise known as petit mal seizures, these are common among children and can cause brief loss of awareness. In addition to that, the affected may also stare into space and exhibit body movements like lip smacking or eye blinking.

What causes seizures?

As mentioned, seizures may be brought on either due to natural causes and certain provocations. In addition to that, anything that affects the brain can also lead to such an outcome. Here are a few common causes to take note of.

  • Drug abuse
  • Electric shock
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain infection
  • Brain defect
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Head trauma
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumour
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood glucose
  • Electrolyte imbalance

What are the common seizure symptoms?

As both focal and generalised seizures can happen at the same time, there may be a wide range of symptoms one can experience. The duration of these symptoms varies and can last up to 15 minutes per episode. These are what you should look out for as early signs of a seizure about to happen.

  • Changes in vision
  • Headache
  • Out-of-body sensation
  • Sudden fear or anxiety
  • Dizziness

Besides the above, the following are the symptoms of a seizure in progress.

  • Falling
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Unusual, grunting noises
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Loss of bladder control and bowel function
  • Muscle spasms
  • Frothing in the mouth
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion

What is the treatment for seizures?

As with most medical conditions, seizures are treated based on the cause. Addressing the underlying problem can prevent future seizures altogether. Here are a few treatment options to help reduce or eliminate seizures.

  • Antiseizure drugs
  • Exercise
  • Surgery
  • Brain stimulation via a responsive neurostimulation system
  • Electric stimulation of the vagus nerve

Regardless of the cause or type, seizure disease, in all its forms, is not to be taken lightly as it can be life-threatening. As a result, it is important to do all you can to maintain a stable lifestyle while ensuring that you avail medical care periodically and diligently. Thankfully, with digital provisions like the Bajaj Finserv Health app, availing the healthcare you need is now simpler than ever.

This app allows you to access quality healthcare from the comfort of your home and without any of the hassles. With it, you can find the best specialists in your vicinity, book appointments at clinics online and maintain digital patient records too. To add to that, you can also opt for a virtual consultation, thus ensuring that there are roadblocks to attaining necessary treatment. All of these features and benefits are available to you right now and all you have to do is download the app for free on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.