What is a Seizure?

Epileptic seizures result from a temporary electrical disturbance of the brain. Sometimes seizures may go unnoticed, depending on their presentation, and sometimes seizures may be confused with other events, such as a stroke, which can also cause falls or migraines. It is important for physicians to perform an EEG recording to accurately diagnose the condition.

Persons who have lived with epilepsy for much of their lives may find that their seizures change as they age. The duration of the seizures may become longer or shorter; the intensity of the seizures may worsen or improve; seizure episodes may occur more or less frequently. Seniors also demonstrate a high rate for newly-diagnosed cases of epilepsy.

While there are over 40 types of seizure, most are classed within 2 main categories:

Partial seizures

Partial seizures occur when the excessive electrical activity in the brain is limited to one area. The 2 most common forms are simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures.

Generalized seizures

Generalized seizures occur when the excessive electrical activity in the brain encompasses the entire organ. The 2 most common forms are generalized absence seizures and tonic-clonic seizures.

Important Facts to Remember

Although seizures look different, they have certain things in common:

  • During a seizure, a person may stop breathing for only a few seconds.
  • Most seizures only last 1-2 minutes, although the person may be confused for a long time afterwards.
  • The brain almost always stops the seizures safely and naturally.
  • Once a seizure has begun, you cannot stop it – just let it run its course.
  • Only in emergencies, doctors use drugs to bring a non-stop seizure to an end.
  • People don’t feel pain during a seizure, although muscles might be sore afterwards.
  • Seizures are usually not life threatening, but the risk is increased in seniors by the extra strain on the heart, the possibility of injury, or a reduced intake of oxygen.
  • Seizures are not dangerous or contagious to others.