Seizures

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Seizures


Seizures occur when an uncontrolled electrical surge happens in the brain, which often results in convulsions. Symptoms of seizures are dependent on some factors, including where in the brain the surge occurred, what the cause of the surge was and the patient's age and medical history.

There are also many possible causes of seizures, including brain injury, tumours, lead poisoning and certain illnesses. If seizures occur frequently, they could be an indication of a major health concern so it is imperative that the individual seeks medical attention.


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During a seizure


  • Protect the person from injury.
  • Try to move nearby objects.
  • Turn the individual to their side if possible.
  • Do not insert anything into the individual's mouth.
  • Do not move or hold the individual, unless you are turning them to their side.
  • Take note of the individual's behaviour so that you can relay information to medical professionals:
    • How the person's body moved
    • How long the seizure lasted
    • How the person acted before the seizure
    • How the person acted immediately after the seizure
    • Whether the person suffered any injuries from the seizure

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After a seizure


Check for injuries.

  • Ensure the individual is on their side
  • If the person is having trouble breathing, use your finger to gently clear his or her mouth of any vomit or saliva.
  • Loosen tight clothing around the person's neck and waist.
  • Provide a safe area where the person can rest.
  • Do not give anything to eat or drink until the person is fully awake and alert.
  • Stay with the person until he or she is awake and familiar with the surroundings. Most people will be sleepy or confused after a seizure.

An individual who has recently had a seizure should not drive, swim, climb ladders, or operate machinery until he or she has seen a doctor about the seizure and the doctor has said that the person is allowed to drive or operate machinery.


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Causes


There are many types of seizures, but the most common are Focal Seizures and Generalised Seizures. Possible causes of these episodes may include:

  • Medical conditions, such as epilepsy
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Brain disease
  • Stroke
  • The use of drugs and alcohol
  • Neurological problems

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Focal Seizures


Focal seizures originate in just one part of the brain and are the most common types of seizures.

Often, when a patient experiences a Focal seizure they remain conscious but experience severe psychic, sensory or motor effects, such as intense deja vu, vivid memories or sudden, strong and unexplainable emotions. They may also hear, smell, see, feel or taste things that are not there or lose function in parts of their body. The symptoms that present are dependent on the location of the surge.


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Generalized Seizures


Generalised seizures are a result of electrical surges on both sides of the brain, resulting in more severe symptoms.

Generalised Seizures often cause loss of consciousness and muscle contractions. The following are categorised as Generalised Seizures:

  • Clonic seizures: Muscle twitching and jerking.
  • Tonic seizures: muscle stiffness, usually in the back, legs, and arms.
  • Absence seizures cause the patient to stare into space involuntarily, as well as muscle twitches.
  • Myoclonic seizures: causes twitches in the muscles of the upper body, arms, and legs.
  • Atonic seizures cause loss of muscle tone, which results in the patient falling or dropping their head.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures cause a combination of symptoms.

Seizures are not either focal or generalised, in some cases, seizures begin as focal and then spread to the rest of the brain.


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Diagnosis


Diagnostic tests using brain imaging (Brain Neuroimaging (MRI, CT Scan)), ultrasound technology (transcranial doppler) and video EEG (Electroencephalogram) are used to diagnose seizures.


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Treatment


Treatment will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests, and medication is largely used - especially anticonvulsant drugs. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on several factors, including the frequency and intensity of the seizures and the age, health, and medical history of the patient.