What is a Seizure?
A seizure, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain.” Seizures are also called spells, fits, or attacks and they affect different people in different ways. Some people may simply go blank, or stare into space for a couple of seconds, others may wander around and be confused. In the extreme, some people may fall to the ground and shake, (which is called a convulsion), and often do not remember the episode when it is over.
- Brief blackouts
- Changes in behavior, such as picking at one’s clothing
- Drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Eye movements
- Grunting and snorting
- Mood changes such as sudden anger, unexplainable fear, panic, joy, or laughter
- Shaking of the entire body
- Staring spells
- Sudden falling
- Tasting a bitter or metallic flavor
- Teeth clenching
- Temporary stop in breathing
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms with twitching or jerking limbs
- Altered senses
- And more…
This Seizure Symptom Depictions video depicts what some seizure symptoms might look like and how testing may help a physician to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment.
What causes a Seizure?
A seizure can be caused by a variety of things such as known medical conditions, flashing lights, a tumor, alcohol, or a traumatic brain injury. Some seizures have no direct cause, but are linked to genetics, stress, or other unseen conditions. To explore each cause more fully, check out the Epilepsy Foundation’s seizure triggers page.
Are Seizures and Epilepsy the Same?
No. A seizure can be a single event with or without a known cause. According to the ILAE, epilepsy is a disease marked by 2 or more unprovoked seizures at least 24 hours apart. If you have had more than one seizure, you should talk to your doctor about the symptoms, triggers, and patterns that you’ve noticed. Your doctor will normally perform a variety of tests before making a final diagnosis of epilepsy or another seizure-like disorder.
What types of testing are done?
Three of the most common tests are EEGs, CT scans, and MRIs. An EEG (electroencephalogram) test is painless recording of your brain waves using wires, paste, and recording devices to record the brain’s activity. To learn more about in-home EEG testing, click here. A CT (computerized tomography) test is like an x ray, but it is for soft tissue and organs and provides a 3-D image. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test is similar to a CT but provides far more detailed images. Your doctor will be able to guide you through whichever test(s) he or she sees fit in order to better diagnosis your seizures.
For more information on seizures, check out our Seizure 201 blog.