An epileptic seizure, also called just a seizure, is a sudden and brutal discharge of neurons exerted by the brain. It may be isolated or part of epilepsy, a chronic disease characterized by repeated seizures. Seizures may occur in different ways depending on the area of neural origin of spontaneous discharge. The seizure may be due to compression of parts of the brain as is the case in the presence of a hematoma after trauma, brain tumors, intracerebral hemorrhaging, or the excessive use of alcohol, other drugs and medications. When it occurs in the absence of these causes, often in a child or a young adult, an epileptic disease is suspected. Note that seizures can occur in children in the case of high body temperature: this is called a hyperthermic seizure.
Seizures are divided into two groups: partial seizures (or focal seizures) and generalized seizures whose Symptoms are different.
Generalized seizures can result in:
- movements of the entire body, involuntary and manifested either as brutal, repeated and sudden jerks (clonic seizures) or as muscle spasms (tonic seizures). The combination or alternating of these two types of symptoms is possible;
- Sudden loss of consciousness that may be accompanied by movements or not.
Partial seizures are characterized by motor or sensory signs localized to one part of the body. They may be accompanied by loss of consciousness, or become generalized.
In general, the doctor does not witness the crisis, and the patient does not often recall the events, thus the presence of a witness is essential. In cases of suspected seizure, further tests are performed. An electroencephalogram, also called EEG, will measure the electrical activity of the brain that may be abnormal in the case of an epileptic disease. However, it often shows as normal outside of attacks. Brain imaging, CT scans or MRIs are also frequently performed, as well as a blood test.
When witnessing a seizure, three steps are necessary: to protect the patient, call EMS and help the patient lie down and put him into the recovery position with his head elevated, all while pending the arrival of specialized care. In the case of a crisis occurring in the context of disease epileptic seizures, antiepileptic drug therapy is recommended and will be adapted to the occurrence of seizures. When a seizure is repeated without recovery of normal neurological status between the crises, it is a "mal" status. Emergency support via intravenous drugs is necessary to stop the crisis.
To avoid seizure in an epileptic patient, treatment should be properly administered; fatigue should be avoided, as well as alcohol and toxic substances. Some jobs or activities are not possible for patients with epilepsy, and driving may be suspended.