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What is a Seizure?


A Seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. A Seizure usually affects how a person appears or acts for a short time. Many different things can occur during a Seizure. Whatever the brain and body can do normally can also occur during a seizure


What happens during a seizure?


Seizures can take on many different forms, and seizures affect different people in different ways. Not all parts of a seizure may be visible or easy to separate from each other. Every person with seizures will not have every stage or symptom.


An Aura or warning is the first symptom of a Seizure and is considered part of the Seizure. Not everyone has an aura.  The middle of a seizure is often called the Ictal Phase. This correlates with the electrical Seizure activity in the brain. As the seizure ends, the Postictal phase occurs - this is the recovery period after the seizure. Some people recover immediately while others may take minutes to hours to feel like their usual self.


Common causes of seizures by age:

In Newborns:

  • Brain malformations
  • Lack of oxygen during birth
  • Low levels of blood sugar, blood calcium, blood magnesium or other electrolyte problems
  • Inborn errors of metabolism
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Maternal drug use
  • In Infants and Children:
  • Fever (febrile seizures)
  • Brain tumor (rarely)
  • Infections
  • In Children and Adults:
  • Congenital conditions (Downs Syndrome; Angelman's Syndrome; Tuberous Sclerosis and Neurofibromatosis)
  • Genetic factors
  • Progressive brain disease (rare)
  • Head trauma


In Seniors:

  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Trauma


  1. You can’t swallow your tongue during a Seizure. It's physically impossible.
  2. You should NEVER force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. Absolutely not! Forcing something into the mouth of someone having a Seizure is a good way to chip teeth, cut gums, or even break someone's jaw. The correct first aid is simple. Just gently roll the person on one side, support their head, protect from injury, and make sure their breathing is okay.
  3. DON'T restrain someone having a Seizure. Most Seizures end in seconds or a few minutes and will end on their own. You can protect the person from injury by following simple first-aid guidelines.
  4. Epilepsy is NOT contagious. You simply can't catch epilepsy from another person.
  5. Anyone can develop epilepsy.  Seizures start for the first time in people over age 65 almost as often as it does in children. Seizures in the elderly are often the after effect of other health problems like stroke and heart disease.
  6. Most people with Epilepsy CAN DO the same things that people without epilepsy can do. However, some people with frequent seizures may not be able to work, drive, or may have problems in other parts of their life.
  7. People with epilepsy CAN handle jobs with responsibility and stress. People with seizure disorders are found in all walks of life. They may work in business, government, the arts and all sorts of professions. If stress bothers their seizures, they may need to learn ways to manage stress at work. But everyone needs to learn how to cope with stress! There may be some types of jobs that people with epilepsy can’t do because of possible safety problems. Otherwise, having epilepsy should not affect the type of job or responsibility that a person has.
  8. Even with today's medication, epilepsy CANNOT be cured. Epilepsy is a chronic medical problem that for many people can be successfully treated. Unfortunately, treatment doesn't work for everyone. AT LEAST 1 million people in the United States have uncontrolled epilepsy. There is still an urgent need for more research, better treatments and a cure.
    Epilepsy is NOT rare. There are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the U.S. as the number of people with cerebral palsy (500,000), Muscular Dystrophy (250,000), Multiple Sclerosis (350,000), and Cystic Fibrosis (30,000) combined. Epilepsy can occur as a single condition, or may be seen with other conditions affecting the brain, such as Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability, Autism, Alzheimer's, and Traumatic Brain injury.
    You CAN die from
    Epilepsy. While death in Epilepsy doesn't happen frequently, Epilepsy is a very serious condition and individuals do die from seizures. The most common cause of death is SUDEP or Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. While there is a lot we still don’t know about SUDEP, experts estimate that one out of every 1000 people with Epilepsy die from SUDEP each year. People can also die from prolonged seizures (status Epilepticus). About 22,000 to 42,000 deaths in the U.S. each year occur from these Seizure emergencies.
  9. What happens in a Seizure may look different from one person to another. However, Seizures are usually stereotypic, which means the same things or behaviors tend to occur in a person each time they have a seizure.  The Seizure behavior may be inappropriate for the time and place, but it is unlikely to cause harm to anyone.
  10. People with Epilepsy are usually not physically limited in what they can do. During and after a Seizure, a person may have trouble moving or doing their usual activity. Some people may have trouble with physical abilities due to other neurological problems. Aside from these problems, a person who is not having a Seizure is usually not limited in what they can do physically.



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