What is a Seizure?
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that can cause a variety of symptoms, such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, strange behaviors, and even lapses in memory. Seizures can occur for a variety of reasons, and can range from mild to severe.
In this article, we’ll explore what a seizure is, and answer the question: Does it hurt to have a seizure?
Types of Seizures
Seizures occur when the normal electrical activity in the brain is disrupted due to excessive neurons firing which causes an abnormal response. They can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on where in the brain it occurs, as well as its severity. It is important to understand the different types of seizures and their possible effects.
The most common type of seizure is a generalized tonic-clonic seizure (formerly known as grand mal). During this type of seizure, a person will experience a sudden loss of consciousness followed by stiffening of the body, jerking motions or convulsions. He or she will also have trouble breathing after the seizure has ended.
Other types of seizures include:
- Partial seizures (also known as focal seizures), which affect only one part of the brain and may be limited to one side of the body.
- Absence seizures (also called petit mal), which cause brief periods of unconsciousness.
- Myoclonic seizures, which involve sudden brisk twitching or jerking movements.
- Status epilepticus, which involves prolonged or multiple seizures that require immediate medical attention.
It is important to note that while most types are not painful in themselves, they may lead to serious injuries if left untreated.
Causes of Seizures
Seizures occur in the brain and can be caused by a number of things. Some people have seizures due to physical or mental trauma, while others may have seizures as part of an underlying medical condition such as epilepsy.
Seizures can be caused by high fever, head injury, stroke, drug and alcohol use, problems with circulation or metabolic disturbances. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
Sometimes seizures are triggered by certain things such as noise or flashing lights. These type of seizures are called reflex epilepsies and may not be caused by an underlying medical condition but rather a physical response to environmental factors.
Regardless of the cause, in many cases, the seizure activity can be managed with medication or other therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). It is important to work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you if you or someone you know is experiencing seizures.
Symptoms of a Seizure
Having a seizure can be accompanied by a range of symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the seizure. Some of the common symptoms of a seizure include confusion, uncontrolled jerking or spasms of movement, loss of consciousness, and a feeling of fear. Seizures can also cause physical pain in some cases, so it is important to be aware of the potential risks.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the symptoms of a seizure and the ways in which it can affect the body:
Physical symptoms of a seizure can vary greatly and depend on the type of seizure experienced. These may include jerking movements, such as thrashing limbs or twitching all over; loss of consciousness; an absence of any movements or sensations; unusual changes in behavior; and/or sudden, intense physical sensations.
In tonic-clonic seizures (formerly known as grand mal seizures), muscles will tense up and cause stiffening of the body, followed by jerking movements that may involve all four limbs and/or other parts of the body. The person may have trouble breathing, bite their tongue or their cheeks, temporarily lose control over bladder muscles (incontinence), go pale or blue due to lack of oxygen in the blood, sweat heavily, be unresponsive to others around them and experience confusion when recovering from the event.
In absence seizures (formerly known as petit mal seizures) there is no loss of consciousness but instead a person appears vacant or has a ‘daydreaming’ look while they experience changes with their brain waves. The person having an absence seizure may appear to:
- Stare blankly into space for few second
- Resume normal activity
- Be unaware that anything out-of-the-ordinary had happened at all
In addition to physical symptoms, seizures may also involve cognitive changes. These are the mental or emotional components of seizures and can often be very difficult to detect. Cognitive changes during a seizure may include confusion, fear, disorientation, a racing heart rate, inability to communicate clearly and lack of awareness of the environment. It is important to recognize these signs so that medical attention can be sought if necessary.
Cognitive symptoms of a seizure may also manifest as difficulty concentrating, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, and confusion for several minutes following the seizure. Some people can experience memory deficits ranging from forgetfulness of recent events to experiencing complete blackouts during events that are typically remembered easily such as conversations or activities. People with epilepsy may also experience episodes known as ‘augmented potentials,’ which involve heightened emotional states such as laughter, anger or sadness in some cases lasting brief moments while in other instances they can last hours or days.
Seizures that involve an altered level of consciousness commonly feature facial symptoms including grimacing and tongue biting while other complex motor phenomena such as cycling and lip smacking are also possible during seizures with altered consciousness.
Epilepsy is more than a physical condition – seizures can also have emotional effects. People with epilepsy typically experience emotional changes either before or during a seizure, including feelings of anxiety, fear, déjà vu, and euphoria. These feelings are most often reported by people with temporal lobe epilepsy, but they can occur in any type of epilepsy. Emotional symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may occur on their own or in combination with other types of seizure symptoms.
After a seizure ends, emotions such as confusion and embarrassment can linger. Supportive family and friends can make these feelings less overwhelming by creating an open dialogue where it’s safe to talk about feelings associated with the experience of seizures.
Other emotional symptoms that may occur include:
- Unexplained changes in mood or behavior
Treatment for Seizures
Seizures can be a frightening experience and can cause a variety of symptoms including confusion, fear, loss of consciousness, and uncontrolled movements. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. While some treatments can be pursued without medical supervision, others require the assistance of a doctor.
Let’s take a look at some of the treatment options for seizures:
Medications can be used to treat seizures and will usually be the first step in controlling them. They work by calming abnormal electrical activity in the brain and are an important part of treating epilepsy.
The most common medication used to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures is anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). These medicines come in different forms, including short-acting and long-acting medications, or tablet, liquid or formulation combinations. Your doctor will determine which type is best for you based on your condition and any other medications you may be taking.
Other types of medications commonly prescribed for seizure control include:
- Anti-convulsants, which prevent or reduce the severity of future seizure activity.
- Antiseizure drugs that stop a seizure when it begins.
- Mood stabilizers that can help manage the side effects of some AEDs.
- Benzodiazepines to help calm an individual who may be having a seizure.
- Steroids that may reduce inflammation around nerve cells in the brain.
Depending on your specific condition and symptoms, your doctor may also suggest alternative therapies such as herbal remedies, dietary changes or vitamin supplements.
For some people, surgery is a possible treatment option if medication and lifestyle changes are not enough to control the seizures. These procedures – called epilepsy surgery – may help to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures in those who have a particularly severe form of epilepsy that can’t be controlled by other treatments. During surgery, part of the brain responsible for producing seizures may be removed or disrupted.
Surgery requires a great deal of planning and consultation with specialists in neurology, neurosurgery, psychology and nursing – sometimes over a period of several months or even years – before it can take place. It isn’t appropriate for everyone and carries some inherent risks, so it is important to discuss your treatment options carefully with your doctor before deciding if surgery is right for you.
Complications of Seizures
Seizures are a common medical issue that can cause a variety of health issues. While some seizures may be mild and not cause any complications, others can be more serious and result in a variety of risks. It is important to understand the potential complications of seizures so that you can take steps to manage them.
Let’s take a look at the various complications that can arise from having a seizure:
It is possible to injure yourself during a seizure, which can include bruises and cuts as well as more serious injuries such as broken bones. Falls are the most common cause of injury during seizures, though it’s also possible to injure yourself by hitting objects like desks or chairs. If you’ve had several seizures in a day, called status epilepticus, you may be at risk of injuring yourself due to extreme exhaustion or muscle fatigue.
For people living with epilepsy, it is important to make sure their environment includes soft surfaces, such as padded carpets or mats in places where they might have a seizure.
Seizures can also affect your breathing which can cause oxygen deprivation and increase your risk for further complications related to cardiovascular health. It is important for people with epilepsy to speak with their doctor about ways that they can reduce their risks for potential inury when having a seizure. This may include wearing a helmet when walking alone or avoiding any dangerous activities such as driving when not feeling well.
Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)
Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, also known as SUDEP, occurs when a person with epilepsy dies for no known reason. The cause of SUDEP has not been determined. Although rare, SUDEP is one of the most serious complications of seizures and can be a significant risk in cases of uncontrolled or frequent seizure activity. Those with epilepsy need to be aware of this possible risk and take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk related to seizures and seizure-related death.
Risk factors for SUDEP include:
- Frequent or long-lasting seizures
- Lack of control over seizures
- Taking several different antiepileptic medications
- Having an undetected cardiac arrhythmia
- Having an underlying metabolism disorder
Research into preventative methods is ongoing, but there are steps that people with epilepsy can take to reduce the risks associated with SUDEP such as:
- Adhering to prescribed medications/treatment plans
- Finding ways to control/manage any stressors that may trigger seizures
- Staying active and taking part in regular physical activity
- Checking regularly for signs of bacterial infections like pneumonia
- Learning first aid for seizure episodes
Prevention of Seizures
Seizures, caused by changes in brain activity, can be a frightening experience. Fortunately, there are certain steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of having a seizure. These steps involve lifestyle modifications, such as getting regular exercise and adhering to a consistent sleep schedule, as well as taking certain medications.
In this article, we will discuss the various ways to prevent seizures:
- Lifestyle modifications, such as getting regular exercise and adhering to a consistent sleep schedule.
- Taking certain medications.
Having seizures is a medical condition that can have dangerous and sometimes life-threatening consequences. To reduce the chances of experiencing an episode, it is important to identify and avoid any potential triggers that could cause one. Knowing what triggers to look for can help you better control your symptoms.
Some common seizure triggers include:
- Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation has been linked to heightened risk of developing a seizure disorder. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of restful sleep per night, on average.
- Stress: Stressful situations such as arguments, job loss, or illness can make people more prone to seizures. It is important to find healthy ways to manage stress in order to balance your mental health and provide your body with the relaxation it needs to protect itself against seizures.
- Alcohol or drug use: Mixing alcohol or recreational drugs with epilepsy medications is not only dangerous but can also lead to seizures. Avoid using alcohol or drugs if you have been diagnosed with a seizure disorder; speak with your doctor if you would like learn more about managing this condition through medication or lifestyle changes.
- Dietary triggers: Some medications used for treating epilepsy are broken down in the liver and therefore interact with certain foods or drinks (e.g., coffee). Certain diets may also trigger seizures due to sudden changes in sodium levels, so discuss any dietary changes with your doctor prior to implementation in order reduce risks associated with triggering an episode.
In addition, there are environmental factors that can also increase seizure activity such as bright flashing lights from electronic devices or loud noises from certain types of music or machinery – be sure you understand what might trigger a seizure for you specifically so that you can avoid those situations in order stay properly protected from future episodes!
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Epilepsy is often considered a chronic condition, but many people are able to live seizure-free with the help of lifestyle interventions and medical management. To lessen the likelihood of seizures, reducing environmental triggers and identifying potential warning signs can be essential in improving overall health and managing epilepsy. Making healthy lifestyle choices can also help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
Some things individuals with epilepsy can do to reduce seizure risk include:
- Maintaining good nutrition, including eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and carbohydrates.
- Getting enough sleep by creating a regular sleep schedule that includes 8-9 hours per night.
- Engaging in physical activity as recommended by a healthcare provider.
- Drinking plenty of water to stay properly hydrated.
- Avoiding stressful situations when possible, as well as recreational drug use and alcohol.
- Limiting caffeine intake to no more than two cups per day.
- Avoiding extreme temperature changes (i.e., hot tubs) or intense physical activity.