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Understanding Seizures

Understanding Seizures

Seizures are changes in the brain’s electrical activity. They occur when too many of the brain cells (neurons) become excited at the same time. Seizures often cause temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movements, behaviors, and sensations.

Not all seizures are alike. In fact, a seizure can be a single event due to an acute cause, such as high fever, high or low blood sugar, or alcohol or drug withdrawal. In other cases, when a person experiences two or more seizures in their lifetime with no known cause, it is diagnosed as epilepsy.  

There are many different types of seizures, but the two major types include:

Focal onset seizures

Focal seizures are the most common type of seizure experienced by people. These types of seizures focus on a single area of the brain. They can be either simple or complex seizures and may spread throughout the brain. During a focal seizure, a person most likely won’t lose consciousness.  

On the other hand, complex focal seizures are often preceded by a simple focal seizure. When a person experiences a complex focal seizure, they may stare blankly into space, or experience automatisms (non-purposeful, repetitive movements).

Generalized onset seizures

Generalized seizures start on both sides of the brain at the same time. When a person experiences a generalized seizure, they often lose consciousness that may be accompanied by spasms, stiffening, shaking, and muscle contractions. Different types of generalized seizures include:

  • Absence seizures: This seizure involves staring spells that usually only last less than 15 seconds.
  • Atonic seizures: Atonic seizures cause sudden loss of muscle strength. A person experiencing this type of seizure usually remains conscious.
  • Myoclonic seizures: Myoclonic seizures are characterized by jerk-like movements. When a person experiences this type of seizure, they are usually awake and able to think clearly.
  • Tonic and clonic seizures: In a tonic seizure, the person loses consciousness and their muscles stiffen. The stiffness usually only lasts for 20 seconds and most often occurs during sleep. After the seizure, the person may wake up tired or confused. Clonic seizures cause a person’s muscles to spasm and jerk.

What causes a seizure?

Seizures may be the result of a variety of health conditions. A person may experience a seizure only once in their life or may suffer from epilepsy where they are prone to random seizures. Common causes of seizures include:

  • Brain infection
  • Drug withdrawal
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumor
  • Head trauma
  • Low blood glucose levels

If you’re suffering from seizures, visit Brain2Spine Institute to find a treatment plan that is right for you. To schedule an appointment, call (727) 351-6902.

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