A seizure is sudden and abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure disorder is when a person has two or more seizures that are not due to illness or another trigger. This is also known as epilepsy.
Seizures are classified into two groups:
Generalized seizure disorder—affects both sides of the brain
Partial seizure disorder (focal seizure)—affects only one area of the brain
Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
The goals of treatment are prevent further seizures with fewest side effects. This may mean treating an underlying cause or avoiding triggers.
Anti-seizure medicines may be given. More than one may be needed. It may take some time to find the right medicine and dosage.
Devices can help to interrupt signals that cause seizures. They are placed just under the skin and attached to brain or large nerve. The devices may be used alone or with medicine. Implanted devices include:
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)—implanted in the chest to stimulate the vagus nerve to decrease seizures
Responsive nerve stimulator (RNS)—implanted in the brain to detect and stop seizures
Deep brain stimulation (DBS)—implanted in the brain and attached to a device implanted in the chest to stop signals that trigger a seizure
A ketogenic diet is a strict diet that is low in carbohydrates and rich in fats. For some people, this diet may reduce seizures. It is not known why it helps.
This diet is very strict and may be hard to stick to. Other low carbohydrate diets like Atkins or low glycemic diet may have some benefit.
Learning and avoiding triggers can help some. Triggers can differ from person to person. Some common triggers are:
Lack of sleep
Flashing bright lights
Excessive alcohol use
Surgery may be done for seizures that are not helped by medicine. The area that is causing the seizures will be removed or destroyed. It is only an option if the seizures start in one specific spot in the brain.
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) for seizure disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/antiepileptic-drugs-aeds-for-seizure-disorders-in-adults. Accessed January 27, 2021.
Epilepsy in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-adults. Accessed January 27, 2021.
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.
Thijs RD, Surges R, et al. Epilepsy in adults. Lancet. 2019 Feb 16;393(10172):689-701.
Last reviewed January 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/28/2021
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