Seizures and convulsions
Marc Wasserman, MD, is a general neurologist at Banner Estella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 535-0050.
Question: Are convulsions and seizures the same thing? Are they typical of people who have a brain tumor?
Answer: Seizures and convulsions, for the most part, are the same thing. Both are categorized by a sudden, misfiring of the brain’s neurons. The brain is an amazing, yet delicate structure that is able to send and receive millions of electrical messages within milliseconds. If there is an interruption in this constant flow of messages, the signals become jumbled and confused. These scrambled electrical impulses can quickly spread throughout the brain, causing a seizure. Fortunately, in most cases, the brain eventually relaxes back into its usual pattern and the convulsions stop. Apart from some confusion, the person generally returns to normal.
Yes, brain tumors can cause seizures. Tumors can grow out of control and begin to take up more and more space within the skull, causing pressure in the brain. The first symptom of a tumor is often a seizure, which results when the pressure interrupts the brain’s electrical signals.
The most common type of brain tumor is called a glioma, which, in some cases, can also be the most aggressive. These are frequently diagnosed in men between 50 and 60 years of age.
Despite major advances in medical care, the average length of survival for a patient with an aggressive brain tumor is approximately three to five years. People diagnosed with low-grade gliomas, or other types of tumors, may have a slightly better prognosis. As long as the tumor is present, individuals are susceptible to continued seizures.
The cause of such tumors remains unknown, and is currently being researched. Studies into suspected causes, such as radiation from cell phones, have produced mixed, or limited results. To date, there is no reliable evidence that links cell phone use to tumor growth.
Though the current rate of “cure” for patients with aggressive brain tumors is low, treatment options are continually improving, both surgically and medically. This allows patients to live a more normal life while receiving care. I am confident that medical research will continue to produce better options for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Always consult with your doctor first before acting on any medical information or advice.