A seizure happens when there are certain types of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, you may:
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
Prevent seizures—may be done through medications, surgery, or special therapies
Avoid factors that stimulate seizure activity
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.
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)
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.
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
is most successful in children. It is less successful in adults.
Modification of Activity
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 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.
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.
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 Surveillancehttp://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: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#carbamazepine.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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