medical condition where body muscles contract and relax rapidly and repeatedly
(Redirected from Epileptic seizure)
Seizure can also refer to the act of taking hold of property, for this meaning see Seizure (law)

A convulsion or seizure happens when the body muscles contract and relax rapidly and repeatedly, resulting in uncontrolled shaking.[1] Because epileptic seizures typically include convulsions, the term convulsion is sometimes used as a synonym for seizure.[1] However, not all epileptic seizures lead to convulsions, and not all convulsions are caused by epileptic seizures.[1]

A video of a seizure. It also shows possble first aid.
Someone who has bitten the tip of their tongue while having a seizure

A seizure happens when the nerves in a person's brain act strangely. Nerves send information, partly through electrical signals. Usually, nerves in the brain (called neurons) do not fire at the same time. During a seizure, groups of nerves start firing together, too fast.[2] This causes there to be too much disorganized electrical activity in the brain.

Most people think a person with a seizure will shake and twitch. Some will, but there are also other kinds of seizures.[3]

Types of Seizures


There are many different types of seizures. They are named by how much of the brain they affect and what happens to the person when they are having that type of seizure.

Partial seizures


In partial seizures, only a small part of the brain is involved in the seizure. These seizures can be more specifically called:

  • Simple partial: The person stays awake the whole time the seizure is happening. They may twitch (especially in just one part of their body), feel dizzy, or smell and taste things that are not there.
  • Complex partial: The person "zones out" during the seizure and may seem confused, experience deja vu, laugh, feel afraid, see things that are not there, or smell something bad. The person may also do something over and over again, like button and rebutton a shirt.

Generalized seizures


In generalized seizures, a larger part of the brain is involved in the seizure. Often, parts of both hemispheres (halves of the brain) are affected. These seizures can be more specifically called:

  • Tonic-clonic - The person faints, and starts having involuntary jerking motions. They may bite their tongue, scream, drool, urinate or defecate. Many people with this kind of seizures have a "strange feeling" before the seizure. This feeling is called aura. Tonic-clonic seizures can last up to 20 minutes.
  • Absence - People having absence seizures often look like they are just "spaced out." They do not fall to the ground or have jerking movements, but they do not seem to hear or notice anything around them. Other people may not notice that the person is having a seizure at all. The person may simply freeze in place and pick up where they left off when the seizure is over. The person having the seizure usually does not remember it afterward. This kind of seizure only lasts up to 10 seconds.
  • Myoclonic - A myoclonic jerk is a sudden jerking motion, usually on both sides of the body. This kind of seizure is most common in children under 5. Myoclonic seizures can be seen in adults, who tend of have myoclonic jerks when they are falling asleep or already asleep. Children can have these myoclonic jerks while awake.

Status epilepticus: A medical emergency


Status epilepticus is a medical emergency. A person is "in status" when:[4]

  • They have a seizure that lasts more than five minutes; OR
  • They have more than one seizure without recovering in between.

Status epilepticus is a medical emergency because the brain will not get enough oxygen during a long seizure. This can cause brain damage or death.[4]

What Causes Seizures?


Certain types of seizures point to a disorder called epilepsy, where the nerves do not work as they should. They carry the wrong messages to the brain so that the person moves uncontrollably or sees, hears, smells, feels, or tastes things that are not there. Medicine can be taken to prevent this from happening.

Other than epilepsy, many other things can cause seizures.



Diseases that can cause seizures include:[5]

Drugs and alcohol


Drugs and alcohol can cause seizures:[8]

Other causes


Other things that can cause seizures include:[5]

Possible first aid


Most seizures only last a short time. The best thing to do is to prevent the person with the seizure from hurting themselves. During a seizure, reflexes do not work, and the people with the seizure do not have control over their muscles.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 MedlinePlus Encyclopedia Seizures
  2. Somjen, George G. (2004). Ions in the Brain Normal Function, Seizures, and Stroke. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 167. ISBN 9780198034599.
  3. "Epilepsy". Fact Sheets. World Health Organization. October 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Schachter, MD, Steven C.; Shafer, Patricia O.; Sirven, Joseph I. (August 2013). "Status epilepticus". Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Seizures". U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. February 3, 2015. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Febrile Seizures". September 2015. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "NINDS Cerebral Hypoxia Information Page". National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. September 10, 2015. Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  8. Schachter, Steven C.; Shafer, Patricia O. (August 2013). "Triggers of Seizures". The Epilepsy Foundation. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  9. "What to Do If You Have a Seizure During Detox". Addiction Helper. 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Schuckit, M.D, Marc A. (November 27, 2014). "Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens)". New England Journal of Medicine. 371 (22): 2109–2113. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1407298. PMID 25427113. S2CID 205116954. Retrieved December 13, 2015.