Seizures refer to any changes in behavior after a significant amount of abnormal electrical activity in a person’s brain has occurred. This term is often interchanged with the word “convulsion” and has many similarities between them.
Convulsions occur when the muscles in the body contract and relax repeatedly, resulting in rapid and uncontrollable shaking of the body. While seizure symptoms can also show up as such, there have been cases where seizures reveal only mild symptoms and have no body shaking at all.
Some symptoms may go unnoticed to many people. Learning to identify them can help save a life. The symptoms may include the following:
- Blacking out, followed by a moment of confusion
- Abrupt changes in behavior or mood
- Erratic eye movement
- Teeth clenching
- Staring spells
- Drooling or frothing at the mouth
- Shaking of the entire body
- Temporary halting of breathing
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Taste of metallic or bitter flavor in mouth
These symptoms can go on for a few seconds or can continue for as long as 15 minutes. Other symptoms prior to a seizure can also include nausea, vertigo, as well as experiencing fear or anxiety.
Causes of Seizures
Sudden and erratic electrical activity in the brain is an onset of many seizures. The source of the attack can be caused by many factors. There are even cases where no evident cause can be identified: these types of seizures are called idiopathic seizures.
Seizures can occur at any age, but are most commonly seen in children and young adults. Those with a family history of seizures are also more prone to them. For seizures that continue to occur even after treatment, the condition is called epilepsy.
The following are the common causes of seizures:
- High levels of sodium or glucose in the blood
- Brain infection, including meningitis
- Babies suffering from brain injury during labor or childbirth
- Congenital brain defects
- Brain tumors
- History of drug abuse, including drugs like PCP, cocaine, or amphetamines
- Electric shock
- Severe cranial or head injury
- Heart disease
- Heat stroke or other heat-related illness
- High fever
- Kidney or liver failure, including uremia cases
- Low blood sugar
- Poison or venom
- Pregnancy toxemia
- Malignant hypertension
- Alcohol or drug withdrawal, including benzodiazepines
What to do when a seizure occurs
When a seizure occurs, it’s important to protect the person from injuring him or herself. Most seizures stop by themselves, but the patient can be quite vulnerable during the episode.
Here are some helpful guidelines that help reduce risk or injury:
- Lay the person on the ground in a safe area, clearing the area of furniture or sharp objects.
- Cushion the person’s head.
- Loosen any tight clothing, especially around the neck to facilitate better breathing.
- If vomiting occurs, turn the person on the side to avoid inhaling any vomit into the lungs.
- If the person is wearing a medical ID bracelet, follow any seizure instructions found there.
- Stay with the person until the seizure passes, or until professional medical help arrives.
Babies or children having a seizure during high fever need to be cooled slowly with tepid water. Avoid placing the child in a cold bath. It is also possible to give the child acetaminophen like Tylenol once he or she is awake, especially if there have been convulsions.
Knowing when to call for help can make the difference in saving a life. Here are some important guidelines that will guide you in calling 911 or your local emergency number should there be a seizure victim having an attack at the moment:
- First time for the person to experience a seizure
- Seizure lasts for more than 2 to 5 minutes
- Person does not regain consciousness or normal functions after seizure
- Multiple seizures
- Person having seizure is pregnant, injured, or has diabetes
- Person does not have a medical ID bracelet
- Having a seizure while in water
- Unusual complications during seizure
Contacting the seizure victim’s health care provider or doctor can help to regulate the person’s medication and give appropriate medical attention when needed. Once hospitalized, the person will undergo extensive tests to rule out other medical conditions that can cause seizures or other similar symptoms.
Tests may include a blood test, CT scan or MRI of the patient’s head, EEG, or a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Further testing may follow if a new seizure without an obvious cause happens or if followed by a bout of epilepsy.
Once the cause has been identified, pinpointing and eliminating it is one of the best ways to avoid further episodes.
While there is no specific way to prevent seizures, it is always important to take any medication the doctor has prescribed to the seizure patient. It also helps if family members can observe and record any seizure information to ensure that the person gets proper treatment when needed.
It will also help if the person gets enough quality sleep, maintains regular exercise, observes a healthy diet, and avoids stressful situations. Poor health habits can drastically increase the likelihood of having a seizure. It also goes without saying that avoiding any illegal street drugs can also prevent further seizure attacks.
Each US state also has different laws designed to ensure the safety of seizure-prone citizens. Those with uncontrollable seizures are advised to avoid activities where a loss of awareness would put that person in great danger, such as driving, biking, swimming, climbing high places, especially when done alone.
For more information regarding seizures and how to handle them, please feel free to contact us immediately.