Seizures are uncontrolled spasms or convulsions, most often due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures associated with a change in electrical activity are called epileptic seizures.
Seizures can be isolated events. Recurrent seizures can be a sign of epilepsy.
If you or someone you know has a seizure, Dignity Health has specialists, including expert neurologists on call 24/7, that can provide diagnosis and the right treatment for you. Call 911 or find a Dignity Health ER near you for advanced emergency care for seizures.
When a Seizure Becomes an Emergency
Seek emergency care or call 911 for any type of first-time seizure for proper evaluation and to identify its cause.
You also should seek emergency care for a seizure lasting longer than five minutes, or under these circumstances:
- The person is injured or experiencing other serious symptoms such as trouble breathing.
- The person is unconscious.
- Multiple seizures occur in a short span of time.
What Causes Seizures?
Any condition that damages the brain or stimulates unusual electrical activity can cause seizures. A person who has more than one seizure may have epilepsy.
Possible causes of seizures include:
- Brain tumor
- Infection of the brain or the tissues surrounding it
- Medication side effects
- Poisoning such as carbon monoxide
- Drug or alcohol abuse or withdrawal
- Genetic disorders and brain abnormalities
- Psychological stress
- Abnormal blood glucose or electrolytes
- Brain or head injury
The most common types of seizures are:
- Petit mal seizures may only be a brief episode of staring and unresponsiveness.
- Partial seizures only affect a small part of the brain and may have very specific symptoms. For example, someone may only experience smelling, tasting, or hearing something that isn’t there.
- Grand mal seizures affect the entire brain. Spasms of the entire body and complete loss of consciousness are hallmarks of grand mal seizures.
How Our Doctors Diagnose Seizures
Your emergency doctor at Dignity Health may conduct a series of tests to determine if the seizure is epileptic:
- Brain scans can find conditions that may be causing your seizures and help identify areas of the brain that are producing them.
- EEG (electroencephalography) records electrical activity in the brain. You may need to wear an EEG device for several days or stay in the hospital to catch abnormal activity.
- Neurological exams helps the doctor understand the possible cause of seizures and if they are affecting your brain function.
Seizure Treatment in Northern California
Seizures generally stop on their own, typically within 30 seconds to two minutes. Your emergency department doctor will give antiseizure medicine for a seizure lasting longer than five minutes or for multiple seizures.
For recurrent epileptic seizures, the doctor will treat you for epilepsy, including medications to prevent or reduce the frequency of seizures. Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California offers inpatient monitoring to learn more about your specific case and offer personalized care. You can also ask us about our clinical research concerning seizures. Dignity Health provides seizure treatment in Sacramento, CA and the surrounding areas.