What is seizure and what causes it?

One day, you and your friend meet at the park to unwind after a stressful week doing your tasks in the office. You bought some food, drinks, sit on a bench in a corner, then chitchat on how did your whole week went. In the middle of your conversation, you panicked because your friend is having seizures. You screamed and called for help because you did not know what to do. (click here for more details)

So are the things you need to know about seizures.

People often associate seizures with epilepsy, but they are two different things. A seizure causes changes in a person’s behavior, movements, feelings, and levels of consciousness. It is due to an overproduction of electrical activity in the brain, thus causing brain disturbance affecting the body. Epilepsy, on the other hand, is the occurrence of two or more triggered seizures or a tendency to have recurrent seizures.

The violent shaking and a loss of control are symptoms of a severe seizure. However, mild seizures sometimes is a sign of a particular medical problem. Thus, it is important to recognize them.

There are two major types of seizures based on the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), which updated classifications that were introduced in 2017. The Focal onset seizures, and the generalized onset seizures.

Focal onset seizures

Focal onset seizure, also known as partial onset seizure occurs in one area of the brain.  If a person knows that he/she is having a seizure, it’s called a focal aware seizure. However, if he/she is unaware when the seizure occurs, it’s known as a focal impaired awareness seizure.

Generalized onset seizures

The seizures simultaneously start on both sides of the brain. Among the common types of generalized onset, seizures are, absence, atonic, and tonic-clonic.

Unknown onset seizures

In this case, the beginning of seizures is unseen and unknown, and due to insufficient information about how they started, they are unclassified.

What are the symptoms of a seizure?

The signs and symptoms are different from person to person, mild to severe, depending on the type of seizure a person has. Both focal and generalized seizures can be experienced simultaneously, or one can happen before the other. The symptoms can last a few seconds to 15 minutes per episode, and sometimes symptoms occur before the seizures happen. These can include:

⦁    dizziness

⦁    a change in vision

⦁    a headache

⦁    a sudden feeling of fear or anxiousness

⦁    feeling sick to the stomach

⦁    an irregular movement of the arms and the legs

⦁    an out of body sensation

Some indicative signs that a seizure is in progress include:

⦁    clenching your teeth

⦁    biting your tongue

⦁    having sudden, rapid eye movements

⦁    making unusual noises, such as grunting

⦁    losing control of bladder or bowel function

⦁    having sudden mood changes

⦁    having a strange taste in your mouth

⦁    drooling or frothing at the mouth

⦁    having uncontrollable muscle spasms

⦁    losing consciousness, followed by confusion

⦁    falling

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So what are the reasons why a person experiences seizures? The significant factors are underlying medical issues such as a brain infection like meningitis, a brain injury during childbirth, and a brain defect present at birth, extremely high blood pressure, epilepsy, extremely high fever, kidney or liver failure, low blood glucose levels, head trauma, a stroke, a brain tumor, vascular abnormality in the brain, etc. Also, anything that affects the body may disturb the brain and lead to a seizure, including activities like alcohol withdrawal, choking, drug abuse, drug withdrawal, an electrolyte imbalance, electric shock, etc.

So when a person has seizures, is there a cure, or will it be forever? It is first vital to consult an expert.  A patient may undergo a series of tests such as blood testing, to check imbalances of electrolyte, a spinal tap to rule out infection, and a toxicology screening to test for drugs, poisons, or toxins. An electroencephalogram (EEG), CT scan, and MRI will help rule out where the seizures are coming from.

These tests will help the doctors diagnose the seizure type and help ensure that the treatments they recommend will be useful.

The doctor will also consider a full medical history and take note of all the events that might lead to seizures. These conditions include migraine headaches, sleep disorders, and extreme psychological stress. They all can cause seizure-like symptoms.