by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
A seizure happens when there are certain types of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, you may:
If you have two or more seizures that are not due to an illness or other trigger, then it is considered a seizure disorder. This condition is also known as epilepsy. Seizure disorders may be classified by the part of the brain they affect and the kinds of symptoms they cause. One way to categorize into two important groups is:
Seizures are caused by abnormal brain function. For many people, it is not known what causes the malfunction. Some known causes include:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chance of developing seizures or a seizure disorder include:
If you already have a seizure disorder, the following factors can increase your chance of having a seizure:
There are many kinds of seizure disorders with a variety of symptoms, such as:
Symptoms of generalized seizure disorders include:
Symptoms of partial seizure disorder include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a neurologist. These doctors specialize in the nervous system and brain.
Tests may include the following:
The goals of treatment are to:
There are wide varieties of medicines that may be used. Some of these include:
These drugs may be given alone or in combination. Each of these drugs may have particular side effects and interactions. Talk to your doctor about which medicine is right for you.
If medicine does not work or the side effects are too severe, you may need surgery. Surgery involves the removal of the seizure focus. This is the area of the brain that has been identified as starting the seizure. Surgery is only an option for people who have very localized areas of the brain involved.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) TOP
A device is implanted in the chest. It will provide intermittent electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. It is not clear how this works. Somehow it prevents or decreases the frequency of seizures. You may still require medicine. The dosage may be less.
Ketogenic Diet TOP
This is a very strict diet. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and proteins. This diet keeps the body’s chemical balance in ketosis. Ketosis decreases the frequency of seizures. The reason is unknown. Following a ketogenic diet is most successful in children. It is less successful in adults.
Modification of Activity TOP
If you have a seizure disorder, you can take the following steps to try to decrease the chance of a seizure:
There are no known ways to prevent every type of seizure disorder. You can take steps to prevent brain injuries that could lead to seizures:
If you have a very severe seizure disorder, some changes may be needed to prevent serious injuries, such as:
Talk to your doctor about these kinds of issues.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education
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Last reviewed December 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/13/2014