First Aid for Seizures

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

What causes an epileptic seizure?

Seizures occur due to a malfunction of the brain's electrical system. Some seizures are caused by brain diseases, tumors, genetic conditions, or other illnesses or disorders that can be diagnosed (symptomatic seizures). When the cause for the seizures is unknown, they are referred to as idiopathic or cryptogenic seizures.

Seizure causes are also sub-classified into acute (an active cause, such as an active brain disease) or remote (caused by a previous event, such as injury).

Some people with seizure disorders have triggers that cause their seizures. Common seizure triggers include foods or medications, hormones, stress, lack of sleep, or sensitivity to light.

What are the symptoms of an epileptic seizure?

Generalized seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, muscle contractions and convulsions (which may appear as very dramatic jerking movements), tongue or lip biting, incontinence, and clouded awareness. There may be weakness or loss of sensation. These symptoms may be brief or last a longer period of time.

Some seizures only cause minor or mild symptoms and can be localized to a specific area of the body. These are called partial seizures. Symptoms of a partial seizure may include an aura (a warning symptom, often a strange sensation in the stomach), lip smacking, fidgeting, lack of awareness of surroundings, confusion, and sleepiness after the seizure. These symptoms typically last 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015

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