What Are Epilepsy Seizures?


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A Brief Guide on Seizures

A seizure is the number one manifestation or symptom of epilepsy. It is a sudden charge of electrical activity in the brain, particularly in the outside rim called the cortex.

This abnormal electrical discharge drastically alters how a person feels or behaves for a short amount of time. Some seizures are totally disabling while other attacks can hardly be noticed.

Seizures vary from person to person. Each attack can last anywhere from mere seconds to several minutes, depending on the type of seizure. Some very rare cases can even last for hours!

Absence seizures, for example, only last for a few seconds while complex partial seizures can last anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes.

Tonic-clonic seizures last for 1-7 minutes while the very rare “Status Epilepticus” can last for many hours. Prolonged and repetitive seizures can result to long-lasting damage to brain function.

Usually, half of the people who experience seizures without a clear cause will likely suffer another one within six months. Those with brain abnormality are twice as likely to suffer another seizure attack.

Suffering from two of such seizures means there is an 80 per cent chance of having epilepsy especially if the first seizure occurred at the time of infection or brain injury.

In order to confirm if one has epilepsy or not, one has to go through a neurological examination called electroencephalogram (EEG) which can examine and record brain waves. There are certain patterns of brain waves that are typical of people with epilepsy. Having such patterns will likely develop into epilepsy.

The attacks can be partial seizures, which mean electrical discharge comes from a specific area in the brain, or, it can be general seizures wherein the whole brain is already affected. During general seizures, consciousness is lost or impaired.

General seizures are also referred to as grand mal seizures. However, if the electrical discharge from a partial seizure is strong enough to affect the other parts of the brain, it can develop into a general seizure.

There are three stages of a seizure attack: a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is thought of as the aura and usually comes with early warning symptoms.

Sometimes, early seizure symptoms or warnings accompany the beginning stage such as deja vu, visual loss, tingling feeling, panic, racing thoughts, strange feelings, dizziness, numbness, headache, lightheadedness and nausea.

The middle stage of the seizure, on the other hand, can take on several forms. Those with warnings will suffer from the aura that can lead to a convulsion.

Some of the symptoms include confusion, black out, deafness, feeling of electric shock, blurring, chewing movements, drooling, convulsion, fluttering of eyelids, lip smacking, shaking, sweating, tremors, tongue biting, breathing difficulty, teeth grinding, stiffening and even loss of consciousness.

The last stage is the transition from the attack to the person's normal state. Referred to as “post-ictal period”, it is the brain's recovery period, lasting from minutes to even hours. Some of the post-ictal symptoms are memory loss, confusion, fear, depression, writing difficulty, bruising, headache, nausea, thirst, weakness, exhaustion, talking difficulty and pain.

This is the main reason why some people exhibit difficulty with memory and intellectual functions after the attack. Unfortunately, these symptoms are wrongly being associated with delinquent or abnormal behavior, leading to the wrong notion that people with epilepsy are crazy and violent.

In case of seizures, one must stay calm and let the person with epilepsy lie down on a soft surface. Place a pillow or a soft object under the person's head.

Loosen any tight clothing and remove the eyeglasses and backpack. Move sharp objects away from the person. Don't stop or restrain the person; instead, stay with him or her.

Never put any kind of object into the person's mouth. After the seizure attack, talk to the person in a calm and reassuring way. There is no need to call 911 unless there's an injury or if the person has other complicated medical conditions.

Owing to the sporadic nature of seizure attacks, it is imperative for people to be aware of steps that should be taken during such situations. A presence of mind and proper knowledge in aiding people with epilepsy are essential in ensuring that lives are not endangered.

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