Having a seizure can be an unsettling experience. At Banner Health, we’re here to help you find answers and get started with treatment as quickly as possible. As a leader in seizure care, our specialists use the latest medical advances and therapeutic techniques to help effectively manage your seizure condition. We offer patients and their families education, support groups and classes with tools to navigate a seizure diagnosis.
Our experienced, compassionate neurological care team is here for you every step of the way. Your primary care doctor, neurologists, imaging specialists, physical therapists, nurse navigators and others collaborate to build a treatment plan specific to your care needs.
Seizures are not a disease, but rather a symptom of a disorder affecting the brain. During a seizure, abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes chemical changes in your nerve cells, affecting your awareness, behavior and movements.
Seizures usually come on suddenly. How long and severe they last can vary. Some seizures are over in just a few seconds, while others last several minutes. Some seizures you may hardly notice, while others can cause unconsciousness and convulsions.
A seizure can happen to you once or repeatedly. People who experience reoccurring seizures have a seizure disorder called epilepsy. Learn more about Banner Health’s advanced epilepsy care.
Sometimes you may not be able to tell someone is having a seizure – the person may just seem confused or to be staring at something. In other cases, seizures cause a person to collapse and be unresponsive. The person may clench his/her muscles and shake or jerk uncontrollably.
When the person comes to, they may be confused, disoriented, tired and have a headache. People also can experience muscle weakness, have difficulty speaking, have temporary partial vision loss and/or loss of other senses. These post-seizure symptoms can last a few minutes, hours or even days.
In most cases, seizures don’t require emergency medical care. Keeping the person safe and knowing basic first aid can help. However, you should call 911 if you believe someone is in serious danger, is injured, or the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or repeats without full recovery.
How to help someone having a seizure:
The cause of seizures is often unknown. Many factors can trigger, increase your risk or contribute to seizures in some people, including:
Generally, a seizure diagnosis is treated with medication. If seizures prove to be more difficult to control, other treatments such as diet therapy, nerve stimulation or surgery may be considered. Discuss your treatment options and preferences with your seizure care team.
Not all seizures are alike. Some can cause you to stiffen, convulse and lose consciousness. Others are less intense, causing you to twitch, have a glazed-over look, or experience altered sensations. There are two major types of seizures: focal and generalized.
Focal, or partial, seizures are located in one specific part of the brain. There are two types of focal seizures:
Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain. You also can experience a secondary generalized seizure, meaning it begins in one part of the brain (focal) and spreads (generalized). Subsets of generalized seizures include:
Epilepsy is a neurological condition. Although anyone can have a seizure, epilepsy is defined as having chronic seizures, generally meaning two or more seizures. Learn more about epilepsy care at Banner Health.