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- Lose consciousness
- Stare into space
- Have convulsions (abnormal jerking of the muscles)
- Experience abnormalities of sensation or emotion
- 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)|
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- Congenital brain abnormalities (present at birth)
- Birth injuries that deprive the brain of oxygen
- Metabolic disorders
- Maternal drug use
- In infants and children:
- In children and adults:
- In elderly:
- Previous brain injury—seizure disorder usually develops within one year of injury
- Previous brain infection
- Abnormal blood vessel that has formed in the brain
- Brain tumor
- History of stroke
- History of complex febrile seizures
- Use of certain medicines or recreational drugs
- Stopping the use of medicines, recreational drugs , or alcohol
- Drug overdose
- Exposure to toxins (eg, arsenic , lead , or carbon monoxide )
- Family history of seizure disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Toxemia during pregnancy
- Chemical abnormalities (decreased or excess blood sodium or glucose, low blood calcium)
- Liver or kidney failure
- Severe, untreated high blood pressure
- Chronic diseases (eg, lupus , polyarteritis nodosa , porphyria , sickle cell disease , Whipple’s disease )
- Cysticercosis (an infection caused by a pork tapeworm )
- Sleep deprivation
- Hormonal changes (such as those that occur at points during the menstrual cycle)
- Flashing lights, especially strobe lights
- Use of certain medicines
- Missing doses of anti-epileptic medicines
- 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
- 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
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures—loss of consciousness, stiffening, uncontrollable jerking of muscles throughout the body
- Absence seizures—staring, eye blinking, or eye rolling
Complex partial or temporal lobe seizures:
- May lose contact with reality, stop purposeful activity, and begin a series of automatic gestures (eg, 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 (eg, leg or arm shaking)
- May include the perception of an odor, sound, or taste, or an unrelated emotion
- Blood tests—to look for abnormal levels of different substances in the blood
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)—a test that uses sensors to evaluate electrical brain activity
- MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the brain
- CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head (used in some cases)
- Lumbar puncture—a test of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the lower back; may be done to look for infection or bleeding
- Magnetoencephalography (MEG)—an imaging device that measures the brain's magnetic fields
- Positron emission tomography (PET)—an imaging test that shows activity in the brain
- Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)—an imaging test that shows blood flow in the brain
- Treat the underlying cause (if known)
- Prevent seizures—may be done through medicine, surgery, or special therapies
- Avoid factors that stimulate seizure activity
- Valproic acid
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
- Vigabatrin (approved for use in infants)
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
Modification of Activity
- 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 medicines according to the prescription.
- 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.
- Depending on your condition, avoid driving.
- Do not swim or bathe alone.
- Do not work on ladders or ledges.
- Avoid or modify athletic activities.
Epilepsy Foundation http://www.efa.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov
Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education http://epilepsy.cc
Epilepsy Ontario http://www.epilepsyontario.org
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) for seizure disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 29, 2012. Accessed August 31, 2012.
Cecil RL, Goldman L, Ausiello DA. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2004.
Epilepsy in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 9, 2012. Accessed August 31, 2012.
FDA approves new drug to treat severe form of epilepsy. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2008/ucm116980.htm. Accessed August 31, 2012.
FDA approves Potiga to treat seizures in adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm258834.htm. Accessed August 31, 2012.
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.
12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.
5/14/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.
11/10/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Sabril approved by FDA to treat spasms in infants and epileptic seizures. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm179855.htm. Updated August 21, 2009. Accessed October 8, 2009.
5/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.
6/10/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Veiby G, Engelsen BA, et al. Early child development and exposure to antiepileptic drugs prenatally and through breastfeeding: a prospective cohort study on children of women with epilepsy. JAMA Neurol. 2013;70(11):1367-1374.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013 -
- Update Date: 00/61/2014 -