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What are seizures?

A seizure occurs when there’s a sudden surge in the brain’s electrical activity. Normally, the nerves in your brain send out electrical impulses in an orderly and regular manner.

When you have a seizure, the nerves become overactive and imbalanced. Though the electrical changes are temporary, the chaotic activity affects your senses, movements, and behaviors.

How do seizures differ from epilepsy?

Many underlying medical conditions can cause a seizure, including:

  • Stroke
  • High fever
  • Low blood sugar
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Imbalance of calcium or potassium
  • Central nervous system infection
  • Certain medications
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Blood vessel conditions in the brain
  • Inflammatory brain condition
  • Brain tumor

You’re only diagnosed with epilepsy if you have two or more seizures that aren’t due to a health problem.

What symptoms occur during a seizure?

Many people are only familiar with seizures that cause loss of consciousness followed by jerking body movements. But there are different types of seizures that cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Weak or limp muscles
  • Tense or rigid muscles
  • Brief muscle twitches
  • Whole-body spasms
  • Repetitive movements
  • Convulsions
  • Blanking out or staring into space
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vision changes (blurry vision or flashes of light)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Inability to hear or talk
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling confused
  • Out-of-body sensations

The symptoms usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some seizures are so brief or have such slight symptoms you may not know you had a seizure.

How are seizures diagnosed?

Your provider at Ventura Neuroscience Center evaluates your symptoms, completes a physical exam, and does a complete neurological evaluation. Though you may need other tests, including blood work, the most important diagnostic tool is an electroencephalogram (EEG).

An EEG shows the unique brainwave patterns associated with seizures. Your EEG may also reveal where the seizure originated in your brain.

How are seizures treated?

The first line of treatment consists of medication that prevents seizures. Since there are numerous medications that each work differently, it may take some trial and error to find the best medication for your unique metabolism.

If you still have seizures despite trying several medications, your provider recommends other treatments. Your seizures may improve with a ketogenic diet, for example. Or you may need to consider vagus nerve stimulation, deep brain stimulation, or surgery.