Seizures symptoms and causes

Seizures symptoms and causes

This is a sudden and uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. Seizures can cause changes in feelings, movements or behavior and in levels of consciousness. If someone has a tendency to have recurrent seizures or if he has two or more seizures, then you have epilepsy. Seizures have many types and they range in severity. The types of seizures vary by where and how they begin in the brain. In the most cases, seizures last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes [1]. The seizure which last longer than 5 minutes is considered as a medical emergency. Seizures are more common than we can imagine. They can happen after a closed head injury, after a stroke or after an infection, such as meningitis or another illness. There are many cases in which the cause for seizures is not known. In the most cases, seizures can be controlled with medications [2] but the management of seizures can have a significant impact on your everyday life. You can work with your health care professional to balance seizure control and the side effects of medications.


Seizures symptoms and causes

Symptoms: The signs and symptoms of seizures can range from mild to severe and they vary depending on the type of seizure. Here are signs and symptoms of seizures:

  • Cognitive or emotional symptoms, such as déjà vu, anxiety or fear
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • A staring spell
  • Temporary confusion

Doctors are generally classifying seizures as focal or generalized which depends on how and where abnormal brain activity begins. If the seizure began is not known, then they can be classified as unknown onset.

  1. Focal seizures: These seizures result from abnormal electrical activity in one area of the brain [3]. These seizures can happen without or with loss of consciousness:
  • Focal seizures without loss of consciousness: They can alter emotions or they can change the way things sound, taste, feel or look but you do not lose your consciousness. There are some studies in which are said that the focal seizures can result in the instinctive jerking of some body part, such as leg or arm and spontaneous sensory symptoms, such as flashing lights, dizziness and tingling.
  • Focal seizures with impaired awareness: They can involve a change or loss of consciousness or awareness. It is known fact that people who have focal seizures with impaired awareness may stare into space and not respond normally to the environment or perform repetitive movements, such as walking in circles, swallowing, chewing and hand rubbing.

The symptoms of focal seizures can be confused with other neurological disorders, such as mental illness, narcolepsy or migraine.

  1. Generalized seizures: These are seizures which involve all areas of your brain. There are different types of generalized seizures [4], such as
  • Tonic – clonic seizures: These seizures were previously known as grand mal seizures. They are the most dramatic type of epileptic seizure and it can cause an abrupt loss of consciousness, shaking and body stiffening and in some cases it can lead to biting your tongue or loss of bladder control.
  • Myoclonic seizures: This type of generalized seizures appears as a sudden brief jerk or twitches of legs and arms.
  • Clonic seizures: These seizures are associated with rhythmic or repeated jerking muscle movements. They usually affect arms, face and neck.
  • Atonic seizures: These seizures are also known as drop seizures. They cause a loss of muscle control which can cause you to suddenly fall down or collapse.
  • Tonic seizures: These seizures cause stiffening of the muscles. They are usually affecting the muscles in the back, legs and arms and they can cause you to fall to the ground.
  • Absence seizures: Petit mal seizure was the previous name for this type of seizures. They often happen in children. They are characterized by staring into space or by subtle body movements, such as lip smacking or eye blinking. They can happen in clusters and they can cause a brief loss of awareness.

Seizures symptoms and causes

Seizures causes

Causes: Epilepsy is the most common cause for seizures but not every single person who has seizures has epilepsy. There are some cases when seizures can be caused by:

  • Alcohol abuse, during time of withdrawal or extreme intoxication [5,6]
  • High fever, which can be associated with an infection such as meningitis
  • Illegal or recreational drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines [6]
  • Lack of sleep
  • Head trauma that causes an area of bleeding in the brain
  • Brain tumor
  • Low blood sodium (which is called hyponatremia), which can happen with diuretic therapy
  • Stroke [7]
  • Medications, such as certain pain relievers, antidepressants or smoking cessation therapies, that lower the seizure threshold


[1] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The epilepsies and seizures: Hope through research. Retrieved from /

[2] Proctor CM, Slezia A, Kaszas A, et al. Electrophoretic drug delivery for seizure control. Science Advances. 2018;4(8).

[3] Wang Y, Trevelyan AJ, Valentin A, et al. Mechanisms underlying different onset patterns of focal seizures. PLOS Computational Biology. 2017;13(5).

[4] Stafstrom CE, Carmant L. Seizures and epilepsy: An overview for neuroscientists. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 2015;5(6):a022426.

[5] Hamerle M, Ghaeni L, Kowski A, et al. Alcohol use and alcohol-related seizures in patients with epilepsy. Frontiers in Neurology. 2018;9:401.

[6] Yeni N, Tumay F, Tonguc O, et al. Survey on smoking, consuming alcohol, and using illicit drugs in patients with epilepsy. Archives of Neuropsychiatry. 2015;52(4):354–8.

[7] Myint PK, Staufenberg EFA, Sabanathan K. Post‐stroke seizure and post‐stroke epilepsy. Postgraduate Medical Journal. 2006;82(971):568–72.


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