Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the brain and causes seizures. A seizure usually leads to disorientation and muscle spasms, and feelings of confusion afterwards. Some seizures can be less severe than others. The cause isn’t always clear, and epilepsy may sometimes result from another underlying condition.
- The symptoms of an epileptic seizure are very diverse, depending on the areas of the brain that are affected .
If a large part of the brain is affected, the following symptoms can occur:
- Visual disturbances, speech disorders or movement disorders as precursors or "warnings"
- Jerking or rhythmic muscle contractions
- Sudden tensing of muscles or loss of muscle strength
- Short nap and disorientation after an attack
If just one area of the brain is affected, the symptoms are usually less severe and the following can occur, for example:
- Lip smacking, chewing
- Making complex body movements
Causes and treatment
An epileptic seizure is caused by a sudden increase in nerve cell activity in the brain. It is usually unclear why certain people have a tendency towards epileptic seizures. Rare but possible causes include:
- Genetic factors (family predisposition)
- Brain haemorrhage, cerebral vein thrombosis
- Cerebral inflammation (encephalitis), brain abscess
- Brain injury, brain malformation
- Brain tumour
Epileptic seizures can occur without warning, but possible triggers include:
- Alcohol withdrawal, medication withdrawal
- Drugs, medication
- Fever (most common cause with children)
- Blood salt imbalance
- Sleep deprivation
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- EEG (electroencephalogram)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Blood test
- Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid
- If possible, removal of the cause
- Operation (in selected cases)
What can I do myself?
- During a seizure, the patient should be positioned in a way that ensures that they can't hurt themselves (preferably on the floor)
- Remove any hard, pointed or sharp objects in the vicinity, as these pose a danger
- If the patient vomits, roll the upper body onto its side so that the vomit can flow from the mouth
When to see a doctor?
- After the first seizure
- If a seizure involving jerking and spasms lasts longer than 5 minutes or recurs frequently at short intervals, this constitutes a medical emergency