Seizure: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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A seizure occurs when there is an uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can affect the way a person feels, moves, and behaves and can even affect their level of consciousness. People who have seizures often are often diagnosed with epilepsy. Seizures can range in severity and length. Some people have long, drawn-out seizures that are strong and even painful. Others have had seizures and showed no signs or don’t even know it. There are many things that can cause seizures, but most of the time, the cause is unknown. There are treatments that can help control seizures and help sufferers live normal lives.

Seizure Causes

Nerve cells in the brain help the brain communicate with the rest of the body. When something disrupts those electrical signals, seizures occur. One of the most common causes of seizures is epilepsy, but many other things can cause them, too. Some of the most common causes include:

  • High fever
  • Lack of sleep
  • Low blood sodium
  • Medications
  • Head trauma
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Illegal drugs
  • Alcohol abuse

Seizure Symptoms

The symptoms of seizures can vary. Some people have severe symptoms and suffer from seizures that are debilitating. Their seizures may last for several minutes and may even cause unconsciousness. Other people suffer from seizures and don’t even know it. They only find out they have suffered from a seizure after a doctor checks them. Some of the symptoms of a seizure include:

  • Staring
  • Temporary confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of awareness
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Cognitive problems
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Stiffness in the body
  • Foaming at the mouth

Seizure Diagnosis

Seizures can often be diagnosed when a doctor witnesses an episode or when a patient suspects they have had a seizure and another occurs while they are being monitored. In some cases, doctors will notice damage to the brain. Doctors can also use a variety of tests to help determine if a patient has had a seizure. Some of these tests include:

  • Neurological exams
  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar punctures
  • Electroencephalograms
  • CT scans
  • MRIs
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Single-photon emission computerized tomography

Seizure Treatment

Treatment for seizures depends on the causes and the severity. In some cases, it may also depend on the overall health of the patient. Just because a person has had one seizure doesn’t mean they will have another. Doctors will not recommend a treatment until a person has more than one. Some common treatments include:

  • Medications
  • Surgery
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Responsive neurostimulation
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Dietary therapy

Seizure Prognosis

The prognosis for seizure can vary. For some people, seizures only occur once or seldomly, and they can control them easily with medication or other treatments. Other people struggle with seizures for years and suffer from them daily. They may find some relief with treatment but may still suffer seizures from time to time. The sooner a cause can be found and a treatment can be recommended, the sooner the patient can find relief and the better the prognosis. If left untreated or in severe cases of epilepsy, the seizures can cause complications and even be fatal.


American Academy of Neurology