Reasons for Seizures

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    The Facts

    • A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that can result merely in a faint feeling of pins and needles, or more severe behavior such as unconsciousness, fallin and/or violent jerking motions. Although many people who have a seizure never have another one, people who have continuous seizures have a condition called epilepsy. According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine at Penn State, one out of every 10 Americans will have a seizure at some point in their life.


    • Doctors classify seizures into two large categories, generalized and partial. Within these two categories are various sub-categories. Generalized seizures begin with an electrical discharge that involves both sides of the brain at once. The most severe type of generalized seizure is a tonic-clonic seizure, which involves a loss of consciousness and severe jerking. Other generalized seizures are atonic, myoclonic and absence, which occur primarily in children. Partial seizures begin with an electrical discharge from a limited area, and the two types are simple partial and complex partial. In a simple partial seizure, the specific area of the brain where the seizure begins determines the characteristics of the seizure. Complex partial seizures usually begin in a small area of the temporal lobe or frontal lobe, but they quickly involve areas that effect alertness and awareness.

    Conditional Causes

    • When the neurons in the brain fire abnormally, a seizure is produced. Seizures are not a disease in themselves, but are instead a symptom of many different disorders that can affect the brain. Conditions that can cause seizures include high fever, various brain infections, hypoparathyroidism, high levels of sugar or sodium in the blood, low levels of sugar, calcium, magnesium or sodium in the blood, kidney or liver failure, phenylketonuria, insufficient oxygen to the brain, damage to brain tissue, such as from a brain tumor, head injury, intracranial hemorrhage or stroke and illnesses such as eclampsia, hypertensive encephalopathy or lupus.

    Additional Causes

    • Seizures can also be caused by outside sources. Some other causes of seizures are abuse of alcohol, amphetamines, tranquilizers or cocaine, a reaction to a prescription drug and exposure to toxic substances, such as lead or strychnine. Seizures can also be triggered by flashing lights, video games, repetitive sounds, lack of sleep, stress, cigarette smoking or hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.


    • According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine at Penn State, a person having a seizure should never be restrained. Health care providers recommend loosening the person's clothing and removing any hard or sharp objects that may hurt the person having the seizure. Seizures that have no underlying cause are treated with antiseizure drugs, and recurring seizures are treated with medication. Seizures that are caused by an underlying medical condition usually stop once the medical condition is treated.

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