You are here
Home > Diseases > What are seizures?

What are seizures?

Seizures are symptoms of a brain problem. These symptoms are characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain . Sometimes, these convulsions can be accompanied by the contraction and repeated distension of one or several muscles in a sudden and violent manner. However, they do not always cause these shakes.

Types of seizures

There are different ways to classify seizures. In this article we will focus on two main types: focal and generalized.

Focal or partial seizures

They are those convulsions in which the convulsive activity is limited to body segments or a hemibody (one side of the body). In this case there is no loss of consciousness.

See also:

Generalized seizures

These types of seizures are attacks resulting from abnormal activities on both sides of the brain. Therefore, they affect both sides of the body. Within the generalized convulsions we can distinguish two:

  • Tonic-clonic crisis or great evil : as we have already mentioned, they are crises that affect the entire brain. And they constitute the type of seizures most frequently associated with epilepsy.
  • Crisis of absence or petit mal : this type of seizure is characterized by brief episodes of altered state of consciousness or “absences.” On the other hand, a crisis of absence can happen on its own, but it is more frequent to occur in combination with other types of seizures.

On the other hand, we can talk about non-epileptic seizures when they are the result of an injury such as a blow to the head or an illness. If these types of seizures get treated they disappear.


Any condition that results in abnormal electrical excitation of the brain can cause a seizure. Among the most common causes of seizures we can find:

  • Brain tumor.
  • Injury or trauma to the skull.
  • Stroke .
  • Infections such as brain abscesses, meningitis, encephalitis, AIDS or neurosyphilis.
  • Diseases that cause deterioration in the brain such as dementia or Alzheimer’s .
What are seizures?
Child suffering an epileptic fit lying on the bed

In addition, medical conditions that irritate brain cells can trigger them. In general, the medical conditions that commonly cause seizures are:

  • Hypoglycemia : a low blood sugar level.
  • High fever: in this case we can talk about febrile seizures in children.

Also, a seizure may be related to a temporary event or trigger of the crisis, such as certain drugs or drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines. However, abstinence from the habit of consuming such drugs, liquor or drugs can also act as a trigger for the crisis.

In some people, there may be hereditary factors that cause a predisposition to seizures. In these cases, the seizures happen spontaneously without an immediate cause. In addition, they are repeated over time. On the other hand, there are cases in which there may be malformations of brain development during embryogenesis .


The symptoms of seizures will depend on the type of seizure in question. Sometimes, partial and generalized seizures can happen at the same time or precede one another. Also, the duration of an episode can go from a few seconds to 15 minutes.

Sometimes, certain symptoms may precede the seizure itself. Among them, we can find:

  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Uneven movements between the arms and legs.
  • Headache.

Among the symptoms that indicate an ongoing crisis are:

  • Loss of knowledge followed by a sense of confusion.
  • Presence of foam in the mouth.
  • Alternation between uncontrollable muscle contraction and relaxation.


To make a diagnosis, since they are a symptom of something else, the doctor will perform a physical examination . Likewise, he will ask certain questions about the characteristics of the convulsions suffered, such as how long the attack lasted or which side of the body was affected. In addition, the following diagnostic tests can be performed:

  • CT (computed tomography) of the head.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
  • EEG (electroencephalography).
  • Lumbar puncture.
  • Blood tests
What are seizures?


The main purpose of seizure treatment will be to avoid or minimize the number of seizures. In addition, in some cases the treatment of identifiable causes can reduce or eliminate seizures.

The treatment for seizures will depend on the type of seizures and the area of ​​the brain affected. Treatment for patients with seizures will be based on anticonvulsant medications . These can prevent or decrease the number of attacks.

Absence crises usually respond to medications such as valproic acid, ethosuximide, and clonazepam . Keep in mind that the response to these medications may vary. Therefore, it is likely that both your dose and the medication need to be adjusted repeatedly.

On the other hand, in the case of patients with epilepsy, who suffer multiple attacks and frequently, they can be treated with intravenous medications.

Read also:

What not to do if someone you know suffers seizures?

Most seizures end within a few minutes, and the affected person does not suffer permanent damage. However, witnessing how someone suffers from seizures can be intimidating. Therefore, here are some tips on what not to do if we see someone suffer:

  • It is important not to try to hold the person to prevent him from moving.
  • Do not put anything in the mouth of the affected person because it could injure the teeth or jaw. Also, a person with seizures will not swallow the tongue, so there is no reason to do so.
  • Avoid offering water or food to a person who has suffered seizures until he is fully alert.
  • Do not try to do mouth-to-mouth breathing. In general, people begin to breathe normally on their own.

What are seizures?