What Is a Seizure?


Quick Answer

A seizure occurs when there is a malfunction in the electrical activity of the brain, leading to either behavioral or physical changes. A seizure can cause symptoms, such as drooling, violent shaking, muscle spasms or twitching, making strange noises and falling down, states the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. These symptoms can last up to 15 minutes, but usually prior to a seizure a person can also experience some warning signs of an impending attack, including nausea, feeling dizzy and vision changes.

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Although a seizure is usually associated with epilepsy, there can be many other causes, including a stroke, head or brain trauma, congenital brain defects, meningitis, fevers, brain tumors, severe hypoglycemia and tapeworm infection, states WebMD.

Based on where in the brain the seizure begins, it can be classified in to two main categories, which are generalized and partial seizures, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. The difference between these seizure categories is that a generalized seizure can start in both sides of the brain, while a partial seizure involves a specific limited brain region. There are six types of generalized seizures, including absence, myoclonic, clonic, atonic, tonic and tonic-clonic seizures. Partial seizures include simple and complex partial seizures.

There can be certain characteristics associated with each seizure type, including how the body is affected. For example, a tonic seizure can cause muscles to stiffen followed by the person losing consciousness. In a clonic seizure, the body goes through spasms and jerking motions.

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