What Causes a Seizure?

Medically Reviewed on 12/21/2022
Causes of a Seizure
A seizure is a medical condition caused by a sudden uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain.

A seizure is a sudden disturbance in electrical activity between the brain cells, which causes temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movements, behavior, sensation, and awareness.

A seizure can be caused by anything that disrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain.

What are the causes of seizures?

Any sudden disturbances in the activity of brain cells may result in seizures.

The following are a few causes of seizures:

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a medical condition in which there is a sudden uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain. When these changes happen, the affected cells transmit signals uncontrollably and this activity increases the stress in the brain resulting in various symptoms. 

Seizures may be temporary and acute due to sudden causes; when they recur, they are called epilepsy.

What are the signs and symptoms of seizures?

Depending on the type of seizure, the symptoms may vary.

The following are some of the most common seizure symptoms:

  • Temporary confusion
  • Staring at things
  • Severe uncontrollable jerk movements of the hands and legs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Behavioral and emotional changes

What are the types of seizures?

Seizures are classified into two main types:

  1. Focal seizures. Are caused by abnormal activity in a single brain area. This may occur with loss of consciousness or without loss of consciousness.
    • Focal seizures with loss of consciousness: May feel like you are in a dream as you may not have consciousness. You may look awake but might not respond to others and do repetitive actions, such as rubbing hands, mouth movements, speaking certain words, and walking in circles. Later, you may forget about the seizure.
    • Focal seizures without loss of consciousness: This seizure may bring about a sudden change in emotions or in the way things look, smell, taste, or sound. Moreover, it may cause sudden behavioral changes such as anger, joy, or sadness. This type of seizure may cause nausea, vomiting, and a few abnormal feelings that are difficult to describe. Additionally, it may result in speech difficulties and involuntary jerking of the hands or legs.
  2. Generalized seizures. These are divided into the following:
    • Absence seizures: Occur in clusters and result in loss of consciousness.
    • Tonic seizures: Result in muscle stiffness, especially in the muscles of the back, arms, and legs. Moreover, they may result in loss of consciousness.
    • Atonic seizures: Also called drop seizures, these result in a sudden drop of the head or a sudden collapse or fall.
    • Clonic seizures: Cause repeated or rhythmic jerking movements of muscles. 
    • Myoclonic seizures: Cause sudden jerks that twitch your arms and legs.
    • Tonic-clonic seizures: These are epileptic seizures that cause a sudden loss of consciousness, stiffness of the body, shaking, and loss of bladder control.


The abbreviated term ADHD denotes the condition commonly known as: See Answer

What are the complications of seizures?

Seizures may result in various complications, such as:

  • Head injuries (after a fall)
  • Seizure attacks while driving may result in accidents
  • Seizures during swimming may result in drowning
  • Seizures during pregnancy may cause harm to both the mother and baby. Antiepileptic medications may also increase the risk of congenital disabilities in the baby.

How are seizures diagnosed?

The following are the ways to diagnose seizures:

  • General and physical examination
  • Blood tests to check for blood sugar levels, infections, or any genetic conditions or electrolyte imbalances
  • Lumbar puncture test (the cerebrospinal fluid is withdrawn from the spine for testing)
  • An EEG (shows the activity of the brain)
  • Imaging tests
    • CT scan (takes pictures of internal organs using X-rays from different angles)
    • MRI (uses magnetic and radio waves to take pictures of your brain)
    • Positron emission tomography scan (uses a radioactive drug to assess the metabolic and biochemical functions of tissues and organs)

How are seizures treated?

The following are the methods to treat seizures:

  • Medications: These are the first line of treatment for seizures. Various medications are given to prevent further attacks. Medications are given intravenously at the time of the attack.
  • Diet changes: A low-carb or ketogenic diet may sometimes help people with seizures.
  • Brain stimulation: A device is placed in the brain, and a mild stimulus is given, which helps prevent seizures.
  • Vagal nerve stimulation: The vasovagal nerve is the 10th cranial nerve that connects directly to the brain. Mild stimulus to this nerve may reduce the frequency of seizures.
  • Surgery: The most common type of epilepsy surgery is resective surgery. It entails removing a small portion of the brain. The surgeon removes brain tissue from the area of the brain that causes seizures. This is often the location of a tumor, brain injury, or malformation.
Medically Reviewed on 12/21/2022
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