Seizure Disorder -- Adult
- Lose consciousness
- Stare into space
- Have convulsions—abnormal jerking of the muscles
- Experience abnormalities of sensation or emotion
- Generalized seizure disorder—onset is throughout the brain, not from a single focal location
- Partial seizure disorder (focal seizure)—begins within certain areas of the brain
|Brain Cells (Neurons)|
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- Congenital brain abnormalities (present at birth)
- Birth injuries that deprive the brain of oxygen
- Metabolic disorders
- Maternal drug use
- In infants and children:
- In children and adults:
- In elderly:
- Previous brain injury—seizure disorder usually develops within one year of injury
- Previous brain infection
- Abnormal blood vessel that has formed in the brain
- Brain tumor
- History of stroke
- History of complex febrile seizures
- Use of certain medications or recreational drugs
- Stopping the use of medications, recreational drugs , or alcohol
- Drug overdose
- Exposure to toxins (eg, arsenic , lead , or carbon monoxide )
- Family history of seizure disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Toxemia during pregnancy
- Chemical abnormalities—decreased or excess blood sodium or glucose, low blood calcium
- Liver or kidney failure
- Severe, untreated high blood pressure
- Chronic diseases (eg, lupus, polyarteritis nodosa , porphyria , sickle cell disease , Whipple’s disease )
- Cysticercosis—an infection caused by a pork tapeworm
- Sleep deprivation
- Hormonal changes, such as those that occur at points during the menstrual cycle
- Flashing lights, especially strobe lights
- Use of certain medications
- Missing doses of anti-epileptic medications
- Aura—a sensation at the start of a seizure, may involve the perception of an odd smell or sound, visual symptoms, or unusual stomach sensations
- Loss of consciousness
- Repeated jerking of a single limb
- Generalized convulsion with uncontrollable jerking of muscles throughout the body
- Hand rubbing
- Lip smacking
- Picking at clothing
- Perception of an odor, sound, or taste
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Postictal state—a state of drowsiness, alteration in responsiveness, and/or confusion that commonly occurs after a generalized tonic-clonic seizure; may last minutes, hours, or days
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures—loss of consciousness, stiffening, uncontrollable jerking of muscles throughout the body
- Absence seizures—staring, eye blinking, or eye rolling
Complex partial or temporal lobe seizures:
- May lose contact with reality, stop purposeful activity, and begin a series of automatic gestures (eg, lip smacking, hand-wringing, or picking at clothing)
- May appear as a brief moment of confusion or loss of attentiveness
- May have a perception of unusual sights, sounds, or smells
Simple partial seizures:
- Does not involve a loss of contact with reality or a loss of consciousness
- Single area of the body may move uncontrollably (eg, leg or arm shaking)
- May include the perception of an odor, sound, or taste, or an unrelated emotion
- Blood tests
- Lumbar puncture
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
- Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
- Treat the underlying cause (if known)
- Prevent seizures—may be done through medications, surgery, or special therapies
- Avoid factors that stimulate seizure activity
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
Modification of Activity
- Get enough sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol can make seizures more likely.
- Avoid hyperventilating.
- Avoid places where flashing or strobe lights are in use.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet. That way, if you have a seizure, people around you will understand what is happening. They will be able to take appropriate steps to be helpful.
- Consider keeping a seizure log. Record things that were happening around the time of a seizure. This will help to identify a seizure trigger.
- Take your seizure medications according to the prescription.
- Always wear a helmet when using bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, or scooters.
- Wear protective headgear when playing contact sports.
- Dive in safe depths of water.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Avoid using street drugs.
- If your baby or child has a high fever, get treatment right away.
- Get prenatal care. If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, get proper treatment.
- If you have a chronic condition, get proper care.
- Avoid driving, if advised to do so by your doctor.
- Do not swim or bathe alone.
- Do not work on ladders or ledges.
- Avoid or modify athletic activities.
Epilepsy Foundation http://www.efa.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov
Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education http://www.esebc.ca
Epilepsy Ontario http://www.epilepsyontario.org
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.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 11/2014 -
- Update Date: 06/10/2014 -