A malfunction of the brain cells that transmit electrical signals uncontrollably is called seizures. However, this health condition can cause certain symptoms that negatively affect your brain and other parts of the body. This condition can impact everyone but it is usually treatable.

What is a Seizure?

A temporary and unstoppable electrical activity in the brain is called a seizure. As a result, electrical activity overloads affects different areas of your brain. These overloads often provoke symptoms and effects. Abnormal sensations, passing out, and uncontrolled muscle movements are the common symptoms of this condition. Fortunately, medicines, surgeries, and special diet changes can treat this disease.

Is There a Difference Between Epilepsy and Seizures?

To understand the difference between these conditions, we should start knowing seizures fall into categories based on the cause. Examples include:

  • Uncaused Seizures – These usually occur suddenly and not due to certain health problems or circumstances. This type of seizure also occurs more than one week consecutively often provoked by a head injury or stroke.
  • Caused Seizures – A person may experience this type of seizure commonly due to high fevers, alcohol or drug withdrawal, low blood sugar, and others. Moreover, caused seizures account for about 25-30% of all seizures.

However, epilepsy is a brain condition in which someone is at higher risk of developing sudden and uncaused seizures.

Who Do Seizures Impact?

All people can have this condition but certain diseases can provoke a seizure more easily. However, children are more likely to develop epilepsy and condition but many of them grow out of the condition. Furthermore, the risk of seizure or epilepsy increases as a person ages, especially after 50 years old.

How Do Seizures Impact My Body?

The brain contains billions of cells (neurons) that send and relay chemical and electrical signals to each other. Thus, a single neuron connects thousands forming communicating networks. These networks are important because they do things including solving problems, storing memories, moving around, and others.

When a neuron transmits uncontrollable electric signals, a seizure occurs. As malfunction of the neurons increases as greater effects of seizures an individual experiences. Moreover, if these seizures continue to happen or they last too long, electrical malfunctions can damage brain cells. This effect can cause permanent damage.

In addition, a person may notice certain changes in the blood chemistry due to seizures. These blood chemistry changes also can cause brain cell damage if they last too long.

How Does the Seizure Spreading Impact the Body?

The seizures usually depend on the part of the brain where they happen. Check below two main ways that seizures occur:

  • Focal Seizures – This type of seizure usually appears in one hemisphere only and is also called partial seizures. In rare cases, partial seizures may spread and become generalized seizures.
  • Generalized Seizures – In such cases, seizures can happen on both sides (hemispheres) of the brain. This type of seizure provokes severe symptoms and effects.

What is Status Epilepticus?

This happens when a person experiences a seizure for more than 5 minutes and there is a high risk of passing out. Thus, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery during this time.


People usually feel when a seizure is going to occur which sometimes includes an β€œaura”. This is a focal seizure symptom. Aura is the only effect that a person experiences if focal seizures do not spread. There are different forms of aura. For example:

  • Autonomic Symptoms – In this type of aura, the body may affect systems that your brain starts automatically. Examples include sweating, too much saliva, or drooling, and your skin may turn red or pale.
  • Emotional Changes – Negative emotions (such as anxiety and fear) or positive emotions (such as joy and excitement) may occur in some people.
  • Sensory Symptoms – In such cases, a person may experience symptoms such as bright light or distortions in how objects appear, unexpected sounds, sudden tastes, or smells. Moreover, strange feelings on the skin also may happen.

Seizure symptoms are different among people and it depends on the type of condition an individual experiences. Check below for some examples of seizures:

Generalized Seizures

  • Absence seizures
  • Tonic-clonic seizures

Absence seizures usually happen in children. However, they end quickly and a recovery period is not required.

Tonic-clonic seizures are usually the most recognizable because they occur in the following phases:

  • Tonic – The duration of this phase is usually between 10-30 seconds, which causes falls and injuries commonly.
  • Clonic – This phase lasts between 30-60 seconds and sometimes longer. Uncontrolled movements are the most common symptom of this phase.
  • Post-Seizure Recovery – Muscle aches and confusion are the common symptoms of this phase. Moreover, the duration of post-seizure recovery is up to 30 minutes.

Other Types of Generalized Seizures

  • Tonic and Clonic Seizures – Both of these seizures may occur individually without each other. It means without clonic or tonic phase.
  • Atonic Seizures – A sudden drop of an individual may occur because during this phase they are unable to keep under control their muscles. In most cases, atonic seizures are noticed in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which is a severe form of childhood epilepsy.
  • Myoclonic Seizures – This seizure type involves a jerk or twitch of a muscle or muscle group which usually causes you to fall if you are standing. Additionally, myoclonic seizures are very similar to myoclonic jerks but the second type occurs when you are sleeping. Therefore, they are not the same thing and myoclonic jerk is considered normal to happen when you fall asleep.

Focal Seizures

This seizure type usually occurs in one hemisphere and stays there. Another name for focal seizures is partial seizures. Check below some focal seizures subtypes:

  • Complex Focal Seizures – When a person experiences this type of partial seizure, a disruption of your awareness of what is happening to or around you occurs.
  • Simple Focal Seizure – Commonly, people are not aware of these when they occur.

Furthermore, when a focal seizure spreads to the other side of the brain, it may lead to a generalized tonic-clonic seizure. Check below some tips on how to protect yourself:

  • Make yourself as safe as possible. It means that you should lie or sit down to avoid falling and injuries.
  • Get someone you trust to help.


Check below some causes that usually provoke seizures:

  • Brain disease (such as Frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and others)
  • Cerebral hypoxia
  • Severe concussion and traumatic head injury
  • Aneurysms
  • Brain tumors (such as cancer)
  • Alcohol and drug misuse (such as prescription medicines, recreational drugs, and others)
  • Eclampsia (hypertension provokes seizures in pregnant women)
  • Electrolyte imbalance (such as decreased sodium, calcium, or magnesium levels)
  • Fevers
  • Light sensitivity
  • Genetic disorders
  • Hormonal changes
  • Drug and alcohol withdrawal
  • Infections (including encephalitis, meningitis, and others)
  • Inflammations caused by autoimmune diseases
  • Metabolic issues (including high blood sugar or low blood sugar)
  • Mental conditions (such as conversion disorder)
  • Sepsis
  • Strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • Poisons or toxins (including carbon monoxide poisoning, heavy metal poisoning, and others)

Furthermore, the conditions listed below provoke seizures in children in their childhood. For example:

  • Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
  • Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy


Neurologists are healthcare providers who often diagnose this condition. Therefore, they will ask you about symptoms, and medical and family history. They may also perform some tests to confirm whether you have seizures or not. Mostly, physicians try to determine the point from where a seizure starts because it can make big differences in the treatment. Check below some tests:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Lumbar Puncture (spinal tap)
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Blood Tests (this test is commonly done for immune system problems, toxins, poisons, and others)
  • EEG (electroencephalogram)

Ask your doctor if you have any questions.


The treatment options used for this condition are different among people. It depends on the severity of the seizures, existing health conditions, other medicines you may use, age, weight, and others. Check below some examples of treatments used for seizures:

  • Medicines – Neurologists usually prescribe drugs used to treat epilepsy.
  • Epilepsy Surgery – This procedure is used to disconnect or remove the problem area of the brain. It is usually done when medications are not working.
  • Diet Changes – In some circumstances, some diets can help to stop epileptic seizures and decrease how often they occur. These diets are an alternative for those people who cannot undergo surgery and medicines do not help.
  • Brain Stimulation – This treatment option involves an implanted device that delivers a mild electrical current. Thereafter, this mild electric current interacts with the brain’s electrical activity of a seizure. Responsive neurostimulation and deep brain stimulation are two forms of brain stimulation available.
  • Vagal Nerve Stimulation – This is the 10th cranial nerve, which directly connects to your brain. The electrical stimulation on the left side of this nerve can help to decrease how frequently seizures occur.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are possible seizure complications?

If you leave this condition untreated it may lead to some unpleasant complications. Examples include:

  • Difficulty learning
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Permanent brain damage (such as stroke)
  • Injury from falls, bumps, and others

Consult with your doctor for more details.

How common are seizures?

Roughly 11% of people in the United States experience this condition, which makes it uncommon. However, epilepsy is more uncommon than seizures because affects between 1-3% of people in the U.S. during their entire life.

When should I go to the emergency room (ER)?

Passing out is a symptom that means you should go to the ER. If you experience this for the first time and you are alone, immediately contact your healthcare professional.

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