Seizures are usually caused by a brain disorder. Seizures can be very traumatic experiences not only for the patients, but also for eye witnesses and family and friends of the patients.
Some types of seizures may cause the patient to fall to the ground, and become unconscious while moving uncontrollably and drooling. Some patients may even lose bladder control during the episode. After a short while, patients may regain consciousness and become exhausted and shocked at what they had just been through. This type of seizure is known as Generalized Tonic-Clonic seizure. There are also some other types of seizures, each with its own unique symptoms.
Seizure is a disorder of the brain. It is usually caused by abnormal signals sent by the neurons (cluster of nerve cells in the brain). Normally, these neurons are responsible for generating electrochemical impulses that act on other neurons, muscles and glands to produce thoughts, feelings and actions in humans. However when the normal pattern of the neuronal activity is disturbed, it generates an abnormal response in the body in the form of muscle spasms, loss of consciousness and strange behavior.
A good number of people suffer from/or have suffered from seizures. In the United States alone, about 2 million people have been diagnosed with either epilepsy or unprovoked seizures. However, not everyone who suffers from a seizure is epileptic. A person can only be said to be epileptic if they suffer from two or more seizures.
Types of Seizures
According to medical literature, there are over 30 different types of seizures that have been identified. However, seizures are generally classified into two main categories;
- Focal Seizures: Focal seizures are also known as partial seizures. They affect only one side of the brain and are usually described by the part of the brain that they affect. About 60% of people who suffer from Epilepsy are affected by this type of seizure.
Focal seizures may take many forms; it may lead to unconsciousness, nausea, sudden unexplainable feelings of sadness, joy and anger or hallucinations. In complex cases, patients may lose consciousness, display strange/repetitive behaviors known as Automatisms.
Such behaviors include blinking, mouth movements, walking in circles and twitching. Patients may also experience unusual sensations warning of an impending seizure known as Auras. Auras can be described as a simple form of focal seizures where the patients remain conscious.
- Generalized Seizures: Generalized Seizures occur due to abnormal activity on both sides of the brain. Generalized seizures may lead to loss of consciousness and severe muscle spasms. It may also cause patients to fall to the ground. There are different types of Generalized Seizures:
- Absence Seizures: Absence Seizures may cause twitching and jerking and sometimes patients may appear like they are staring into space. They may also experience momentary lapses of consciousness. Absence Seizures are also known as Petit Mal Seizures and are believed to be passed on from family members to another.
- Tonic Seizures: In Tonic Seizures, the muscles of the back, arms and legs become stiffened.
- Clonic Seizures: Clonic Seizures are characterized by repeated jerking movements of the muscles on both sides of the body.
- Myoclonic Seizures: This type of seizure causes twitching and jerking of the upper body as well as the legs and arms.
- Atonic Seizures: Patients suffering from atonic seizures may lose normal muscle tone causing them to fall down or drop to their heads.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures: This type of seizure is sometimes referred to as Grand Mal Seizures.
It is not easy to define seizures as focal or generalized because some types of seizures begin as focal seizures but eventually spread to other parts of the brain. Some other patients may also experience both types of seizures with no distinct pattern.
Difference between Seizures and Epilepsy
Although most people tend to confuse both conditions to mean the same thing, Epilepsy is not the same thing as a Seizure. In lay man terms, seizure is when a person experiences one unprovoked seizure while epilepsy is when a person has at least two or more unprovoked seizures.
Having seizures does not necessarily mean that a person is epileptic. There are different types of seizures that are not in any way associated with epilepsy.
- First Epilepsy: It is not uncommon for some people to experience one seizure at a time in their lives. This type of seizure may be as a result of anesthesia or other strong medications. It may also happen unprovoked sometimes. This type of seizure is not followed up with additional episodes of seizures except there is a case of brain damage, neurological abnormalities or if epilepsy runs in the family.
- Febrile Seizures: Febrile seizures may affect children during an illness or high fever. However, children who experience febrile seizures may not suffer from Epilepsy.
- Nonepileptic Events: It is not uncommon for some people to experience seizures even though their brains show no seizure activity. This condition is known as pseudoseizure or nonepileptic events. They mimic seizures but they are not actual seizures. Pseudoseizures may be caused by stress, psychiatric conditions or drug dependence.
- Eclampsia: Eclampsia is a condition that affects pregnant women. It is characterized by sudden increase in blood pressure and unexpected seizures. Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition which should be given immediate medical attention.
Stages of a Seizure
There are three major stages of a seizure. They include:
- Aura: This is the initial stage of a partial seizure. A person who experiences aura alone may be described as having a simple partial seizure but when it affects the patient’s consciousness, and then the patient may be described as having complex partial seizure.
- Ictus: At this stage, the seizure becomes physical.
- Postictal: Postical refers to the effects of the attack like partial paralysis, numbness, loss of consciousness and other after effects of a seizure.
How to Help Someone during a Seizure
Seizure or Epilepsy is not contagious therefore you should never be afraid of helping a person suffering from a seizure.
It is important to protect the person from injury by preventing them from falling down. However, you should not try to hold them down forcefully so as to avoid dislocation or force anything into their mouth in other to avoid teeth or jaw injury.
Lastly, ensure you call for professional help immediately.