What is Seizure?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 31, 2012

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A seizure is a neurological disorder (brain disorder), which can cause physical findings or changes in behaviour. Seizure is caused because of disturbances in electrical signalling in the brain. The brain controls all the parts and functions of the body by sending out small electrical signals through the nerves to all parts of the body. During a seizure or convulsion, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed as a result of an electrical disturbance in the brain. The electrical disturbance in the brain can cause strange sensations, emotions and behaviour or convulsions, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness.

Cause of seizure

There are many different types of seizures, but all are caused by sudden disturbance of electrical activity in the brain. Some common causes of seizures include:

  • epilepsy
  • brain infection, (such as encephalitis, meningitis)
  • head injury
  • fever (particularly in young children)
  • use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, angel dust (PCP)
  • low blood sugar
  • poisoning
  • stroke
  • toxemia of pregnancy
  • very high blood pressure (malignant hypertension)

In many cases, no cause of a seizure can be identified. These types of seizures are known as idiopathic seizures. Seizures that occur repeatedly after treatment of the underlying problem are called epilepsy.

Types of seizures

There are several different types of seizures with varying symptoms. In some types of seizure, people have only a slight shaking of a hand without loss of consciousness while in other types, the person may become unconscious and experience violent shaking of the entire body.

Seizures can be classified as:

  • partial seizures in which only a small part of the brain is affected
  • generalised seizures in which most or all of the brain is affected


Symptoms of a seizure depend on the type of seizure. Generalised seizure cause loss of consciousness and the entire body is affected by the seizure. In the case of a tonic-clonic seizure, the most common type of generalised seizure, the person loses consciousness and the body becomes stiff followed by a twitching of the arms and legs. In most cases, the seizure lasts between one and three minutes, but may often last longer.

Other symptoms suggestive of seizure include:

  • brief loss of consciousness followed by a period of confusion (the person does not remember what happened)
  • changes in behaviour, such as picking at one's clothing, repeated chewing, swallowing action or smacking of lips
  • making unusual purposeless noises (grunting and snorting)
  • drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • taking unusual posture
  • rolling up of eyes
  • grunting and snorting
  • unusual emotional disturbance, such as fear, anger, panic or joy
  • sudden falling


Treatment of seizures depends on the cause of the seizure. Seizures caused due to conditions, such as low blood sugar, low blood calcium, etc do not need anti-epileptic medications and treatment of the underlying cause is vital. Seizures due to epilepsy can be controlled with anti-epileptic medications in most patients with the currently available medications and other treatment options.



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