CRDAMC Homepage | CRDAMC Library Phone #: (254) 288-8366 | CRDAMC Library Fax #: (254) 288-8368

Search Health Library

Seizure Disorder—Adult

(Epilepsy—Adult)

Definition    TOP

A seizure happens when there are certain types of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, you may:

  • Lose consciousness
  • Stare into space
  • Have convulsions—abnormal jerking of the muscles
  • Experience abnormalities of sensation or emotion

If you have 2 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:

  • Generalized seizure disorder—onset is throughout the brain, not from a single focal location
  • Partial seizure disorder (focal seizure)—begins within certain areas of the brain

Brain Cells (Neurons)

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

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:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol
  • Hormonal changes, such as those that occur at points during the menstrual cycle
  • Stress
  • Flashing lights, especially strobe lights
  • Use of certain medications
  • Missing doses of anti-epileptic medications

Symptoms    TOP

There are many kinds of seizure disorders with a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Aura—a sensation at the start of a seizure, may involve the perception of an odd smell or sound, visual symptoms, or unusual stomach sensations
  • Staring
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Repeated jerking of a single limb
  • Generalized convulsion with uncontrollable jerking of muscles throughout the body
  • Hand rubbing
  • Lip smacking
  • Picking at clothing
  • Perception of an odor, sound, or taste
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Postictal state—a state of drowsiness, alteration in responsiveness, and/or confusion that commonly occurs after a generalized tonic-clonic seizure; may last minutes, hours, or days

Symptoms of generalized seizure disorders include:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures—loss of consciousness, stiffening, uncontrollable jerking of muscles throughout the body
  • Absence seizures—staring, eye blinking, or eye rolling

Symptoms of partial seizure disorder include:

  • Complex partial or temporal lobe seizures:
    • May lose contact with reality, stop purposeful activity, and begin a series of automatic gestures, such as lip smacking, hand-wringing, or picking at clothing
    • May appear as a brief moment of confusion or loss of attentiveness
    • May have a perception of unusual sights, sounds, or smells
  • Simple partial seizures:
    • Does not involve a loss of contact with reality or a loss of consciousness
    • Single area of the body may move uncontrollably, such as leg or arm shaking
    • May include the perception of an odor, sound, or taste, or an unrelated emotion

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked 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.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

Your brain activity may be evaluated. This can be done with an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Treatment    TOP

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Treat the underlying cause (if known)
  • Prevent seizures—may be done through medications, surgery, or special therapies
  • Avoid factors that stimulate seizure activity

Anti-epileptic Medication

There are wide varieties of medications that may be used. These drugs may be given alone or in combination. Each drug may have particular side effects and interactions. Talk to your doctor about which medication is right for you.

Talk to your doctor if you are or plan to become pregnant.

Surgery

If medication 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.

A brain responsive neurostimulator, an intracranial implanted device, can stop seizures in those with medically refractory epilepsy as they begin.

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 medication. The dosage may be less.

Ketogenic Diet    TOP

This is a 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:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol can make seizures more likely.
  • Avoid hyperventilating.
  • Avoid places where flashing or strobe lights are in use.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet. That way, if you have a seizure, people around you will understand what is happening. They will be able to take appropriate steps to be helpful.
  • Consider keeping a seizure log. Record things that were happening around the time of a seizure. This will help to identify a seizure trigger.
  • Take your seizure medications according to the prescription.

Prevention    TOP

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:

  • Always wear a helmet when using bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, or scooters.
  • Wear protective headgear when playing contact sports.
  • Dive in safe depths of water.
  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Avoid using street drugs.
  • If your baby or child has a high fever, get treatment right away.
  • Get prenatal care. If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, get proper treatment.
  • If you have a chronic condition, get proper care.

If you have a severe seizure disorder, some changes may be needed to prevent serious injuries, such as:

  • Avoid driving, if advised to do so by your doctor.
  • Do not swim or bathe alone.
  • Do not work on ladders or ledges.
  • Avoid or modify athletic activities.

Talk to your doctor about these kinds of issues.

RESOURCES:

Epilepsy Foundation
http://www.efa.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education
http://www.esebc.ca

References:

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) for seizure disorders. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 10, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Epilepsy in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults. Updated October 16, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Fisher RS, Van Emde Boas W, Blume W, et al. Epileptic seizures and epilepsy: Definition proposed by the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) and the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE). Epilepsia. 2005;46:470–472.
Geller EB, Skarpaas TL, Gross RE, et al. Brain-responsive neurostimulation in patients with medically intractable mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2017;58(6):994-1004.
Serafini A, Lukas RV, VanHaerents S, et al. Paraneoplastic epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav. 2016;61:51-58.
12/20/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults: 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
5/14/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults: Neal EG, Chaffe H, Schwartz RH, et al. The ketogenic diet for the treatment of childhood epilepsy: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Neurol. 2008;7(6):500-506.
5/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults: Quet F, Guerchet M, Pion SD, Ngoungou EB, Nicoletti A, Preux PM. Meta-analysis of the association between cysticercosis and epilepsy in Africa. Epilepsia. 2010 ;51(5):830-837.
Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Health Library: Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
36000 Darnall Loop Fort Hood, Texas 76544-4752 | Phone: (254) 288-8000