Having a brain seizure can be a terrifying experience. If you have a seizure, there was a problem with too much uncoordinated electrical activity in your brain.
In general, a seizure is when too many of your brain cells become excited at the same time. There are two different types of seizures, generalized and partial. With a generalized seizure, your brain has abnormal electrical activity on both sides of your brain. Partial seizures happen when electrical activity surges in one part of your brain.
Seizures can happen for many reasons:
It may be from high levels of salt or sugar in your blood; brain injury from a stroke or head injury brain problems you are born with or perhaps a brain tumor.
Dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, high fever or illnesses or infections that hurt your brain. Illegal drug use or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use can cause seizures as well.
So, what are the signs that someone is having a seizure?
Some people with seizures may have simple staring spells, while others have violent, uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness. Some people will see flashing lights, others may hallucinate. Some people may have strange sensations, such as tingling, smelling an odor that isn't really there, or emotional changes.
Most people who have a seizure for the first time will go to the emergency room. The doctor will do tests to rule out medical causes, such as a stroke. You may have blood tests, CT or MRI scans of your head, or a spinal tap.
Treatment depends on the cause of your seizure. For example, if a seizure was caused by fever, treatment will focus on bringing the fever down.
Your doctor may send you home with some medicines to help you avoid having more seizures if there is reason to think you are at continued risk of seizures. You should get plenty of sleep and try to keep as regular a schedule as possible, and try to avoid too much stress.
Most people with seizures can have a very active lifestyle. Plan ahead for the possible dangers of a certain activity. Avoid any activity where loss of consciousness would be dangerous until it is clear that seizures are unlikely to occur again.
Review Date: 2/18/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.