Seizures are automatically related to a person who collapses and suffers painful bouts of convulsions. While this holds to an extent, it is not always the case for seizures. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about seizures and what causes them.
Here’s a quick rundown of what causes seizures, what they are, the symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
What Are Seizures?
People who suffer from seizures show that they have a problem in their brains. Seizures happen because of the brain’s abnormal and sudden electrical activity. Most seizures last as quickly as 30 seconds to as long as 2 minutes, which is unlikely to cause any harm. However, if a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, then it is most likely an emergency that needs immediate medical attention.
Types of Seizures
Seizures may appear alike once a person starts exhibiting its symptoms. There are two types of seizures, which can be broken down further into separate groups. The two types of seizures are focal and generalize seizures, which are detailed as follows.
1. Focal Seizures
Focal seizures occur in a specific area in the brain. It may cause emotional and physical effects. Approximately 60 percent of individuals with epilepsy are diagnosed with this type of seizure. Also called a partial seizure, a focal seizure shows symptoms quite similar to a nerve disorder or a mental illness. Doctors have categorized this further into three groups, namely:
- Simple focal seizures
This causes a person to smell or taste something strange. It may also cause the legs or arms to twitch. Though the loss of consciousness does not occur, one may see flashes of light and may feel nauseated.
- Complex focal seizures
Such seizures occur in the part of the brain that is in charge of memory and emotion. A person with complex focal seizures may lose consciousness but may appear to look awake. He or she smacks lips, gags, laughs, or cries during an episode. It takes a few minutes before the person comes out of the episode.
- Secondary generalized seizure
This type of focal seizure happens in one part of the brain before spreading to nerve cells located on both sides. It causes the same symptoms such as losing consciousness and control over one’s bladder. A secondary generalized seizure typically lasts 3 minutes.
2. Generalized Seizures
Under generalized seizures, there are six types.
- Grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures
This type is most noticeable as the body shakes, stiffens, and jerks during an episode. People with this type of seizure often lose consciousness and lose control of their bowel or bladder. It usually lasts 3 minutes.
- Tonic seizures
In this type of seizure, the muscles in the legs and arms tense up which last less than a few seconds. It happens mostly when one is asleep. If it does happen while one is conscious, then a person suffering from an episode of tonic seizures may lose their balance and fall over. Such seizure is common in people with a certain type of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
- Clonic seizures
A person with this seizure suffers muscle spasms which cause the neck, arm, and face muscles to jerk in a rhythmic manner. It lasts a few minutes.
- Myoclonic seizures
This causes a person to jerk as if shocked by electricity suddenly.
- Atonic seizures
Muscles go limp, and the head leans forward in this type of seizure. It typically lasts 15 seconds, but some people have experienced several episodes in a row. People diagnosed with Lennox-Gaustat or Dravet syndrome, two types of epilepsy, are most likely to experience atonic seizures.
- Petit mal or absence seizures
People with this type suddenly seem disconnected from the people around them. They appear staring blankly into space with the eyes rolling back. It lasts only a few seconds and is usually common in children under the age of 14.
What Causes Seizures?
Various health conditions can lead to seizures. If it affects the body, then it can most likely cause brain disturbance leading to a seizure. Moreover, seizures can be genetic. As for some of the causes, these include the following:
- Alcohol Withdrawal
- Brain Infections
- Brain Injuries Specifically During Birth
- Brain Defect
- Drug Abuse or Withdrawal
- Electric Shock
- Electrolyte Imbalance
- High Blood Pressure
- Liver or Kidney Failure
- Low Levels of Glucose in Blood
- Trauma to the Head
Symptoms of a Seizure
Whether partial or generalized, seizures can happen simultaneously. Symptoms last from a few seconds to around 15 minutes. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Changes in Vision
- Feeling of Anxiousness
- Feeling Sick to the Stomach
- A headache
- Jerking Movements of Legs or Arms
- Out-of-Body Sensation
Prevent Seizures from Happening
By knowing what triggers your seizures, you can prevent them from happening. The common factors that can trigger an epileptic seizure include anything from stress and anxiety to mental strain and sleep deprivation. While it’s nearly impossible to predict an episode of a seizure, finding the correlation between one’s behaviors and seizures can help in preventing it.
Here are just a few tips to prevent a seizure from happening.
- Set a Sleep Schedule
- Practice Relaxation Techniques
- Take Medications Prescribed by Your Physician
- Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
- Consume a Healthy Diet
Treatment of Seizures
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the treatment and control of seizures. For those with epilepsy, anti-epileptics, which are a diverse group of medicines, are prescribed. These medications have varied mechanisms of actions. Depending on the type of seizure you experience, the drugs prescribed by a physician varies as well.
For now, there are more than 25 anti-epileptic drugs which have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. According to research, at least 70 percent of people diagnosed with epilepsy have experienced control over their seizure episodes with the use of the approved medications.
After finding out what causes seizures, it may help explain if you or someone you know has it. Remember, if seizures run in your family, then it is best to get checked now.