Seizures

Specialty of Psychiatry

What are seizures?

Seizures, or convulsions, are a medical condition where body muscles contract and relax involuntarily, resulting in an uncontrolled and unforeseeable shaking of the body. During a fit, the voluntary muscles contract and relax rapidly and repeatedly for a variable period of time. Seizures can arise if you have a high temperature or if you have any viral diseases. If you have epilepsy, you will also experience seizures. Furthermore, conditions such as hypoglycaemia or hypocalcaemia can lead to seizures as well.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of seizures largely depend on the cause. The most common ones are:

  • Involuntary jerking;
  • Altered mood before a fit;
  • Foaming at the mouth;
  • Grinding your teeth;
  • Uncontrollable muscle spasms;
  • Breathing problems;
  • Joint pain;
  • Uncontrollable eye movements;
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea;
  • Fainting;
  • Temporary cessation of breathing;
  • Suddenly falling down;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Making sounds or noises.

Moreover, before having a fit, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety;
  • Insomnia;
  • Dizziness;
  • Seeing bright lights;
  • A sense of numbness in one or more parts of your body;
  • Nausea

How can seizures be diagnosed?

Convulsions or seizures are usually diagnosed with a physical examination and by going through your medical history with your doctor. For a more accurate diagnosis, you may have to do one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood test;
  • Urine test;
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG);
  • Head MRI scan;
  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture: only if there is a suspect of either meningitis or encephalitis;
  • Neurological examination: reflex analysis, muscular strength and tone, sensory abilities, posture and gait examination, coordination analysis.

What causes seizures?

The primary cause for seizures is an abnormally excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. However, there are several conditions that can lead to a fit; that is why it is hard to determine the exact trigger. Some of the main underlying causes are: alcoholism, drug abuse, poisoning, epilepsy, high fever, kidney and liver failure, metabolic disorders, heart diseases, meningitis, snake bites, electric shock, head injuries, toxic substances in the blood, head trauma, brain tumour, eclampsia, viral infections, congenital cerebral defects, alcohol withdrawal and high blood pressure.

How can seizures be treated?

To help control the seizures, a doctor may prescribe anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or sedatives.

Which doctor should I talk to?

You should see a neurology specialist, neuropsychiatrist or psychiatrist.

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