A seizure is the result of an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. It is important to remember that not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy.
A seizure occurs when excitable brain neurons (nerve cells) give off abnormal electrical discharges. There are different types of seizures. Epilepsy is diagnosed when an individual has multiple seizures over time.
Seizures are divided into two main types: generalized and partial.
Generalized seizures occur when the abnormal discharges are start on both sides of the brain simultaneously.
Partial seizures result from abnormal discharges from only one area of the brain. Partial seizures are further separated into complex or simple.
Complex partial seizures affect an individual's awareness or consciousness during the event, whereas simple seizures do not.
Complex partial seizures may cause a number of symptoms including: automatic behaviors, such as lip smacking or chewingconfusion after the seizure is overloss of contact with the environment, even though the person is consciousloss of memory for events that occur during the seizure
A complex partial seizure may go on to become a generalized tonic-clonic seizure.
Any of the following conditions may be the cause of a complex partial seizure: structural defects in the brain present at birthbrain tumorsabnormal blood vesselsbleeding in the brainstrokehead injuryinfections in or around the brainmedication or drug side effects
Most often, the cause is unknown.
There is usually no way to prevent this condition because the cause is often not known. Medications can help prevent further seizures.
A test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) can be used to measure the brain waves. The brain waves become abnormal in many people who have seizures, and are almost always abnormal during a seizure. Special x-ray tests such as a cranial CT or cranial MRI may be ordered to examine the brain for abnormalities.
Rarely, complex partial seizures can progress to seizures that do not stop. When this happens it is called status epilepticus, which could possibly cause brain damage if left untreated.
This is not a contagious condition.
Medications that suppress seizures are usually effective. These medications can usually prevent seizures or at least make them happen less frequently.
Each medication has its own array of likely effects. Some of the more common include allergic reactions, stomach upset, and drowsiness.
Treatment may be required for life in some people. Persons who have not had a seizure in a long time may be taken off medication, to see if the seizures come back. If a person has not had a seizure for several years, the healthcare professional may decide to stop treatment.
Anyone with seizures should be evaluated. A brain specialist called a neurologist usually follows people with seizures on a regular basis. Once a control plan is in place, a primary healthcare professional or nurse practitioner may monitor the illness.
"Principles of Neurology", 1997, Adams et al.