Cluster seizures are episodes of increased seizure activity in which two or more seizures occur in 24 hours. Multiple seizures occur one after the other typically with a recovery period between each seizure and are different from a person’s usual seizure pattern.
Cluster seizures affect people with epilepsy regardless of their sex or age. They may occur rarely or frequently. They may occur in children and adults over the age of 60 years old who have new-onset seizures. If cluster seizures are left untreated, they may progress to status epilepticus, a life-threatening emergency. Status epilepticus is a serious condition in which a single seizure lasts more than five minutes or more than one seizure occurs within five minutes without allowing the person to recover from the first seizure.
Cluster seizures are also known by other terms, all of which describe the condition, characterized by multiple seizures, such as
- Acute repetitive seizures
- Serial seizures
- Crescendo seizures
- Seizure flurries
- Recurrent seizures
- Cyclical seizures
- Seizure clusters
What causes cluster seizures?
The exact reason why cluster seizures occur is not known but they may be associated with a failure of inhibition of the epileptic discharge in the brain.
Some risk factors for cluster seizures include having:
- Frontal lobe epilepsy
- Head injury or trauma
- Poor seizure control
- Focal onset seizures
- Generalized epilepsy
- Rare seizures
- History of central nervous system infection
- Cortical dysplasia
- Complex partial seizure
- Earlier age of seizure onset
- Refractory epilepsy: Failure of more than two seizure medications. A person gets seizures even after trying two or more seizure medications.
- Intractability: Less than one year of seizure freedom
What triggers cluster seizures?
Certain conditions can trigger cluster seizures, including
- Sleep deprivation
- Menstrual period
- Skipping epilepsy medication
- Using alcohol or recreational drugs
In about 30 percent of people who get cluster seizures, there are no identifiable triggers that cause them.
What are the complications of cluster seizures?
Cluster seizures may happen without warning. Without the right treatment, cluster seizures might lead to serious problems such as
- Status epilepticus: This refers to longer seizures or a seizure lasting longer than five minutes. The risk of brain injury goes up if a seizure lasts more than 30 minutes and can become a life-threatening seizure emergency.
- Mental illness: A patient is likely to lose touch with reality (psychosis) after cluster seizures.
- Death: People who have cluster seizures have higher death rates.
- Drowning .
- Car accidents.
- Injuries such as scrapes, cuts or broken bones.
- Pregnancy complications may arise.
- Psychological problems.
- There could be a disruption of school, work, family and social life.
As cluster seizures can cause great harm, it is important to manage them.
How are cluster seizures treated?
Cluster seizures can often be easily treated outside of a hospital. Early treatment may consist of the use of rescue medication that will prevent the need for hospital treatment. Rescue medication has to be given as soon as possible to stop or prevent cluster seizures.
Benzodiazepines are used as rescue treatment to help avert cluster seizures. They stop seizures by changing the levels of a chemical messenger in the brain, called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Side effects of benzodiazepines may include drowsiness and dizziness.
Rescue medication is prescribed along with the patient’s anti-epileptic drug (AED) regimen. AEDs are to be taken every day as prescribed by the doctor to manage seizures. Rescue medication is administered only when cluster seizures occur.
However, if rescue treatments don’t work and seizures continue to occur or complications occur, emergency medical treatment and hospitalization may be required.
Route of administration of rescue medication
Rescue medication can be administered in several ways and necessitates training on how and when to use them to avoid injury or harm to a patient.
- Nasal: Rescue medication is sprayed into the nose to stop cluster seizures. They work quickly and are easy to use.
- Rectal: A gel form of rescue medication is injected into the rectum using a syringe without a needle. This type may be safer, especially for children, during a seizure.
- Cheek: Also called the buccal method. For this method, the rescue medication is put inside the cheek. It is not suitable for people who produce a lot of saliva during a seizure.
- Oral: The medications are taken by mouth as a pill, liquid or wafer.
- Intravenous (IV) or shot: The doctor may give rescue medication through an IV or inject it into a muscle to help stop cluster seizures immediately.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top What Is a Cluster Seizure Related Articles
Can the Vagus Nerve Cause Seizures?The vagus nerve is an important pathway to the brain in addition to helping to control seizures. Stimulation of the vagus nerve leads to the discharge of electrical energy into a wide area of the brain, disturbing the abnormal brain activity that causes seizures. The vagus nerve is used to treat seizures that do not respond to medications.
What Is the Difference Between a Seizure and a Convulsion?Learn what the main difference between a seizure and a convulsion is, and how to recognize and treat either condition.
Do Seizures Come in Clusters?Yes, seizures can come in clusters. The term seizure clusters is used when three or more seizures that occur within 24 hours (or within six hours as defined in some studies).
Seizures QuizDo you know the difference between seizures and epilepsy? What are the types of seizures? Take the Epilepsy & Seizures Quiz to test your knowledge and learn about this complex disorder of the brain.
Epilepsy and Seizures: How to Treat?A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where brain activities are abnormal, causing more than one or recurrent episodes of seizures. Most cases of seizures can be managed conservatively with medication and supportive treatments.
Epilepsy SlideshowLearn about epilepsy symptoms and treatment for this seizure condition. Discover the definition of epilepsy, how epilepsy is diagnosed, epilepsy medications, and how epilepsy dogs help people with seizures.
Epilepsy TreatmentEpileptic seizures mostly controlled through drug therapy, particularly anticonvulsant drugs. Types of treatment prescribed depends on several factors including the frequency and severity of the seizures as well as the person's age, overall health and medical history. Other forms of treatment options also exist including ketogenic diet and electrical stimulation.
What Is the First Aid for Seizures?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. If a person has a seizure, loosen the clothing around his/her neck and remove sharp objects around the person to prevent injury. After the seizure, lay the person on his/her side to maintain an open airway. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes or if the person cannot be awakened after the seizure, call 911. Learn common seizure triggers, including foods or medications, hormones, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, or sensitivity to light.
How Do You Stop Multiple Seizures?Seizures are a medical emergency. Whether the seizure is a first-time onset or a recurring episode, it is advisable to dial 911 and call for help. A group of drugs called benzodiazepines is usually administered to stop multiple seizures.
Migraines and Seizures (Symptoms, Auras, Medication)Migraines are a type of headache and seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. Migraine headaches and seizures are two different neurological problems that have similar signs, symptoms, and auras, for example, sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound, irritability, nausea, and vomiting.
Symptoms unique to migraine and migraine auras are water retention, problems sleeping, appetite changes, and talkativeness. Symptoms unique to seizure and seizures auras are depression, a feeling of heaviness, a feeling that a seizure is approaching, and depression.
Many of the symptoms of migraine and seizures are the same, however, seizures do not cause migraines; however, people who have seizures are twice as likely to have migraines and vice-versa. People who have migraines are twice as likely to have seizures, and people with seizures are twice as likely to have migraines; however, one condition does not cause the other.
Seizure (Epilepsy)Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
Seizure vs. Seizure Disorders: What's the Difference?Seizures and seizure disorders are not the same medical problems. A seizure happens when the electrical activity in the brain is uncontrolled. There are about 40 different types of seizure disorders, in which epilepsy is one. Symptoms depend on the type of disorder, but can include loss of consciousness, uncontrolled twitching or shaking of one side, or the entire body.
Seizures Symptoms and TypesSeizures are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the brain, while partial seizures are produced by electrical impulses in a small part of the brain. Seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.
What Are the Different Types of Seizures?A seizure is a sudden change in the brain's normal electrical activity. During a seizure, brain cells fire uncontrollably than their normal rate, temporarily affecting the way a person behaves, moves, thinks, or feels. Recurrent seizures are called epilepsy. Seizures are usually categorized into three types depending on their onset.
Can a Person With Epilepsy Live a Normal Life?Can a person with epilepsy live a normal life? What is epilepsy and what causes it? Learn the signs and symptoms of epilepsy, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.