A seizure happens when there are certain types of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. During a seizure, you may:
If you have two or more seizures that are not due to an illness or other trigger, then it is considered a seizure disorder. This condition is also known as epilepsy. Seizure disorders may be classified by the part of the brain they affect and the kinds of symptoms they cause. One way to categorize into two important groups is:
Seizures are caused by abnormal brain function. For many people, it is not known what causes the malfunction. Some known causes include:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing seizures or a seizure disorder include:
If you already have a seizure disorder, the following factors can increase your chance of having a seizure:
There are many kinds of seizure disorders with a variety of symptoms, such as:
Symptoms of generalized seizure disorders include:
Symptoms of partial seizure disorder include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to see a neurologist. These doctors specialize in the nervous system and brain.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your brain activity may be evaluated. This can be done with Electroencephalogram (EEG).
The goals of treatment are to:
There are wide varieties of medications that may be used. These drugs may be given alone or in combination. Each drug may have particular side effects and interactions. Talk to your doctor about which medication is right for you.
Talk to your doctor if you are or plan to become pregnant.
If medication does not work or the side effects are too severe, you may need surgery. Surgery involves the removal of the seizure focus. This is the area of the brain that has been identified as starting the seizure. Surgery is only an option for people who have very localized areas of the brain involved.
A device is implanted in the chest. It will provide intermittent electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. It is not clear how this works. Somehow it prevents or decreases the frequency of seizures. You may still require medication. The dosage may be less.
This is a strict diet. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and proteins. This diet keeps the body’s chemical balance in ketosis. Ketosis decreases the frequency of seizures. The reason is unknown. Following a ketogenic diet is most successful in children. It is less successful in adults.
If you have a seizure disorder, you can take the following steps to try to decrease the chance of a seizure:
There are no known ways to prevent every type of seizure disorder. You can take steps to prevent brain injuries that could lead to seizures:
If you have a severe seizure disorder, some changes may be needed to prevent serious injuries, such as:
Talk to your doctor about these kinds of issues.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) for seizure disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 27, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Epilepsy in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 17, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2014.
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. Published November 20, 2008. Accessed November 18, 2014.
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. Published June 13, 2011. Accessed November 18, 2014.
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 November 18, 2014.
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.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.