Seizure: Meaning, Early Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Medically reviewed by

Bajaj Finserv Health

General Health

10 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Seizures are serious medical conditions that generally require medication to be controlled.
  • Seizures may be brought on either due to natural causes and certain provocations.
  • Addressing the underlying problem can prevent future seizures altogether.

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 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 a seizure disorder and knowing this distinction is key to the 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 is a complete guide to the different types of seizures, their causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What is 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, behavior 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.

Difference Between Seizures and Epilepsy

Knowing that seizures split into two primary types based on why they occur the first step in understanding the distinction between seizures and epilepsy.

Provoked seizures

These are brought on by different situations or circumstances (high fevers, alcohol or drug withdrawal, low blood sugar). Approximately 25% to 30% of all seizures result from external stimuli.

Unprovoked seizures

These occur when a person's brain is more prone to producing spontaneous seizures. They are not signs of a present illness or predicament. It also applies to seizures that occur more than seven days following a particular trigger (like a head injury or stroke).

The chance of sudden, unprovoked seizures increases when you have epilepsy. When you have at least two unprovoked seizures, or if you have one unprovoked seizure but have a significant chance of having at least one more in the following ten years, medical professionals will diagnose it. One spontaneous seizure raises the likelihood of further ones happening. Provoked seizures alone are insufficient for a doctor to declare you epilepsy.

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 helps you get better treatment or a quicker diagnosis.

Types of Seizures

Focal 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.

Generalised Seizures

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:

  • 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.
  • Clonic seizures: These are seizures that result in rhythmic or repeated jerking muscle movements in the neck, arms, and face.
  • 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.
  • Atonic seizures: Also known as drop seizures, those affected lose muscle control and may suddenly collapse.
  • Myoclonic seizures: These are usually sudden and brief jerks or twitches of the legs and arms.
  • 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?

Numerous factors can trigger seizures. These consist of the following:


The body's reaction to an infection results in sepsis, a dangerous medical disease. Bacterial infections are sepsis's most common cause. Sepsis may endanger life.

Conversion Disorder

When you have conversion disorder, your brain's normal functioning is interfered with by a mental health problem. It results in uncontrollable, actual bodily symptoms. Symptoms include seizures, weakened or paralyzed muscles, and a reduction in the information from one or more senses (sight, sound, etc.). The majority of the time, this sickness is treatable with a range of therapy.


A deadly, uncommon brain illness with several potential origins is encephalitis. With hospital treatment and drugs, its physical symptoms usually get better. However, its impacts on daily living might persist due to how it affects brain function.

Cerebral Hypoxia

Cerebral hypoxia can occur due to accidents, heart attacks, and strokes. A medical emergency is a cerebral hypoxia. It may result in long-term brain damage. Brain death and coma may occur if the brain is not given enough oxygen.

Brain Aneurysm

When a bulge in a blood artery in the brain develops and fills with blood, it is called a brain aneurysm. Aneurysms frequently go unnoticed until they rupture or start to spill blood. A burst aneurysm can result in a deadly stroke and a severe headache. Different techniques are used as treatments, such as redirecting blood flow across the aneurysm and preventing blood from entering the aneurysm.

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

Common Seizure Symptoms

When you describe your symptoms to a healthcare professional, they may be able to diagnose and treat the specific type of seizures you are experiencing. Focused and generalized seizures are the two primary categories.

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures mostly come in the following forms:

  • Seizures with tonic clonus
  • Absence Seizures

Seizures with Tonic Clonus

Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly known as 'grand mal' seizures (French for "big sickness," are often the most well-known. The stages they occur in are as follows:

You pass out during the tonic phase, lasting between 10 and 30 seconds, while all your muscles contract up. As a result, falls and injuries occur often.

Tonic-clonic seizures typically last between 30 and 60 seconds but occasionally last longer.

You awaken and resume your pre-seizure state during the post-seizure recovery period, which can last up to 30 minutes. Muscle pain and confusion are frequent.

Absence Seizures

These seizures, once known as 'petit mal' seizures (French for 'small sickness' are most prevalent in youngsters. Absence seizures frequently resemble daydreaming, 'spacing out,' or a 'thousand-yard stare,' among other behaviors. There is no need for a recuperation time as these seizures cease fast.

Even though absence seizures are brief, they can occur dozens or hundreds of times daily. They are frequently mistaken for distractions or indicators of learning disabilities.

Early 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

Effects of Seizures

Multiple seizures and epilepsy can have both immediate and long-term repercussions. These can include a decline in living quality to an increase in the likelihood of mental health issues.

Temporary effects

You could become completely unable to control your body during some seizures. Falls and other motions as a result of this may cause injuries.

People with epilepsy frequently experience more significant physical problems, such as fractures and bruises, than those without the disorder.

Your quality of life may suffer if you are prone to seizures. For instance, you might not be able to drive anymore. In addition, you might want to avoid activities like swimming or solo travel, where a seizure could be dangerous.

It's crucial to wear a medical alert bracelet that alerts first responders to your epilepsy.

Permanent Consequences

Seizure symptoms may worsen and gradually continue longer if you don't receive therapy. Long-lasting seizures may result in coma or death.

Although epilepsy-related deaths are uncommon, the risk of premature mortality is three times higher in those with epilepsy than in the general population.

You can also feel the effects of epilepsy and seizures on your emotional well-being. Bipolar disorder and depression are more common in persons with epilepsy than in the general population.

What Are the Kinds of Seizures That Affect Children?

Any of the causes mentioned above of seizures in children is possible. However, one of the most frequent causes of seizures in children is fevers. Additional factors include:

Epilepsy in children:

Typically, this illness begins around the middle of adolescence. One or more myoclonic seizures on both sides are the primary sign of this form of epilepsy. These often occur when you get up in the morning and are more common when you don't get enough sleep. There is also a chance of tonic-clonic and absence seizures.

The Lennox-Gastaut condition:

Multiple seizure types and brain damage are brought on by this severe form of infantile epilepsy. Delays in development are also typical. In addition, it frequently results in atonic seizures, which increases the risk of damage ("drop attacks").

Treatment for Seizures

The causes of seizures affect the treatments. You might be able to stop other attacks from happening by addressing the source of the current ones. Epilepsy-related seizure therapy options include:


For those with many seizures, anti-epileptic medications are frequently the first line of treatment. About 70% of the time, they successfully manage attacks by focusing on the signaling processes of specific brain cells.

Anti-epileptic medications come in wide different varieties. Therefore, the appropriate drug for managing your disease may need cooperation between you and your doctor.

A Brain Operation

If medicine does not control epilepsy and seizures, doctors may suggest surgical treatments.

The following operations are used to treat epilepsy:

  • Recovery surgery
  • Several subpial transections
  • Corpus callosotomy and hemispherectomy

Epilepsy brain surgery can enhance the quality of life, but there is a chance for consequences. To determine whether surgery is the best course of action for you, speak with your doctor.

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 of medical care periodically and diligently. Thankfully, it is possible with the best healthcare platform provided by Bajaj Finserv Health, availing the healthcare you need is now simpler than ever.

It 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 the necessary treatment. All of these features and benefits are available to you right now and all you have to do is get started for a healthier life.

Published on 17 Nov 2020Last updated on 19 Jan 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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