Seizures: Signs, Causes & Treatment

A seizure is a medical condition characterized by a temporary and unstoppable surge of electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, affected brain cells uncontrollably send signals to neighboring cells, causing an overload of electrical activity in specific areas of the brain. This overload can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including abnormal sensations, passing out, and uncontrolled muscle movements.

Given the critical nature of seizures, knowing when to seek emergency care is paramount. Loss of consciousness, head injuries, first-time seizures, increased seizure frequency, persistent seizures, seizures during pregnancy, breathing difficulties, and unresponsiveness after a seizure are clear indicators that immediate medical attention in the Emergency Room (ER) is necessary. Timely intervention significantly influences the outcome in seizure-related emergencies.

While most seizures can be managed with medications, finding the right balance between seizure control and potential side effects is crucial and can be guided in the ER but should be closely followed with your neurologist. Working collaboratively with healthcare professionals allows individuals to navigate the complexities of seizure management and maintain a balance that minimally impacts their daily lives.  
ER in Garland TX

When To Go To The ER

Recognizing the appropriate time to seek emergency medical attention is crucial when dealing with seizures. Listed below are some scenarios where a visit to the Emergency Room (ER) is warranted:

  • Loss of Consciousness: If someone has a seizure especially lasting more than five minutes, they need medical help right away.
  • Head Injury: Seizures occurring after a head injury, even if it seems minor, demand prompt evaluation in the ER. This precaution is essential as head injuries can have delayed symptoms.
  • First-Time Seizure: If someone experiences their first seizure, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. A comprehensive assessment is required to identify the underlying cause and develop a suitable treatment strategy.
  • Increased Frequency of Seizures: A noticeable increase in the frequency of seizures should be a cause for concern. This change in pattern necessitates immediate assessment by healthcare professionals in order to adapt treatment strategies accordingly.
  • Persistent Seizures: If a seizure episode lasts longer than usual or if multiple seizures occur in rapid succession without recovery between them, urgent medical attention is warranted.
  • Seizures in Pregnancy: Seizures can pose increased risks for pregnant individuals. If seizures happen during pregnancy, particularly those related to conditions like eclampsia, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to protect both the individual and the unborn child.
  • Breathing Difficulties: If one experiences seizures that result in respiratory issues, breathing difficulties, or a bluish hue in the skin, it is imperative to recognize the severity of the situation as a medical emergency. Acting swiftly to seek immediate care is of utmost importance in order to effectively address possible complications.
  • Unresponsive After Seizure: If an individual does not regain consciousness or remains unresponsive after a seizure, it is necessary to seek immediate medical attention to evaluate and address the situation.

Understanding the importance of prompt medical intervention is crucial in seizure-related emergencies. If you or someone you know experiences any of these situations, it’s important not to wait and instead go to the Emergency Room right away for a thorough evaluation and proper care.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain that can manifest in various ways. These disturbances can lead to temporary changes in behavior, movements, or consciousness.

Types of Seizures

Focal Onset

Focal onset seizures, also known as partial seizures, originate in a specific area of the brain. They can result from various focal injuries, including trauma, stroke, or developmental scars. Focal seizures may begin with an aura and can progress to altered awareness or complex partial seizures.

Generalized Onset

Generalized onset seizures involve abnormal nerve discharges that affect both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. These seizures are characterized by three distinct types: Absence Seizures, Myoclonic Seizures, and Tonic and Atonic Seizures.

Absence Seizures (“Petit Mal Seizures”)

Commonly seen in childhood, absence seizures are often referred to as “Petit Mal Seizures.” The seizures manifest as brief moments of staring, where individuals appear momentarily distant. Typically lasting a few seconds, these episodes may go unnoticed. While many children outgrow absence seizures, some cases persist into adulthood, possibly evolving into tonic-clonic seizures. 

Juvenile absence epilepsy, a related condition, may involve the development of both absence and tonic-clonic seizures in adulthood.

Myoclonic Seizures

Myoclonic seizures are known for their sudden and abrupt jerks or twitches in the body or limbs. These seizures tend to occur in clusters and are commonly experienced in the morning. These seizures can be part of a syndrome called juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, where individuals may also experience tonic-clonic seizures. 

Myoclonic seizures can also be associated with other epilepsy-related conditions. Managing myoclonic seizures typically involves tailored medications based on individual needs.

Tonic Seizures

Tonic seizures involve sudden and intense stiffness in the arms, back, and legs, leading to falls and potential injuries. Individuals with multiple brain injuries and intellectual disabilities may experience tonic seizures

Atonic Seizures (“Drop Attacks/Drop Seizures”)

Atonic seizures involve a sudden loss of muscle control, resulting in collapsing and potential injuries. 

Tonic-Clonic Seizures (“Grand Mal Seizures”)

Tonic-clonic seizures, previously termed grand mal seizures, can arise from various seizure types, such as focal or generalized seizures. These are the most dramatic epileptic seizures, characterized by a sudden loss of consciousness, body stiffening, and shaking. Tonic-clonic seizures may lead to loss of bladder control or biting of the tongue and can last several minutes. 

Understanding these seizures is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Seeking immediate medical attention for individuals experiencing tonic-clonic seizures ensures proper evaluation and management.

Signs of a Seizure

  • Temporary confusion
  • Staring spell
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Cognitive or emotional changes, including fear, anxiety, or déjà vu

If someone exhibits these signs, seeking immediate medical help is crucial.

Causes

Seizures can occur due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Aneurysms
  • Brain tumors
  • Cerebral hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
  • Degenerative brain diseases
  • Drugs and alcohol (including prescription medications)
  • Eclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure)
  • Electrolyte problems
  • Epilepsy (the occurrence of two or more seizures at least 24 hours apart, without a known cause.)
  • Fevers
  • Genetic disorders
  • Hormone-related changes
  • Infections (encephalitis or meningitis)
  • Inflammation from autoimmune conditions
  • Mental health problems (psychogenic seizures)
  • Metabolic problems
  • Problems with brain structure
  • Severe concussion or traumatic brain injury
  • Sepsis
  • Sensitivity to flashing lights
  • Strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • Toxins and poisons

Prevention

To minimize the risk of seizures, individuals can take preventive measures such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Identifying and avoiding personal triggers
  • Adhering to prescribed medications
  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques

Understanding the signs and causes of seizures is crucial for prompt medical intervention and effective management. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of a seizure, seek medical assistance immediately.

Going to the Emergency Room

A seizure episode can be a very scary and traumatic event for the patient, family, or anyone involved. Getting to the Emergency Room should most likely be the primary goal by either personal transportation or calling 911, whichever is faster in your particular scenario. Upon arrival to a TotalCare the patient will be quickly assessed and if deemed acute or critical they will often be brought back immediately from the waiting room for evaluation by medical staff. 

At TotalCare, we prioritize your health by offering 24/7 access to state-of-the-art diagnostic tools such as CT scans along with in-house labs and a variety of acute treatment options. Our dedicated physicians and staff will conduct thorough history and physical examinations to best understand the underlying cause of your condition. This comprehensive approach enables us to provide the most effective, efficient, and rapid treatment plan, ensuring you get the emergency care needed and feel better as soon as possible.

A potential TotalCare Emergency Department workup will possibly include blood labs, CT imaging of the brain (and imaging of other potentially injured areas), EKG, and urine studies all looking for potential causes or complications associated with the seizure event. With the information from these studies the medical staff and physician can guide care and perform specific treatments to stabilize the patient’s medical condition and stop potential upcoming seizures with a goal of patient safety and seizure resolution.