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Home > Health Library > Seizures
The brain controls how the body moves by sending out small electrical signals through the nerves to the muscles. Seizures, or convulsions, occur when abnormal signals from the brain change the way the body functions.
Seizures are different from person to person. Some people have only slight shaking of a hand and don't lose consciousness. Other people may become unconscious and have shaking of the entire body.
Shaking of the body doesn't always occur with seizures. Some people who have seizures have symptoms before the seizure (auras). Or they may briefly lose touch with their surroundings and seem to stare into space. The person is awake. But they don't respond normally. Afterward, the person doesn't remember the episode.
Some people will have only one seizure during their lifetime. A single seizure usually lasts less than 3 minutes and isn't followed by a second seizure. Any healthy person can have a single seizure under certain conditions. If you have a first-time seizure, you should be checked by your doctor. It's important to rule out a serious illness that may have caused the seizure.
Epilepsy is a nervous system problem that causes seizures. It can occur at any age.
A seizure can be a symptom of another health problem, such as:
Treatment of a seizure depends on what caused it.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Neurological symptoms—which may be signs of a problem with the nervous system—can affect many body functions. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
If you witness a seizure, try to stay calm. Pay close attention to what happens during and after the seizure. How you describe the seizure afterward will help a doctor diagnose and treat the person. For example, how did the person's body move? How long did the seizure last? How did the person act before and right after the seizure? Did the person have any injuries from the seizure?
No matter what caused the seizure, there are things you can do to help a person who is having a seizure.
Keep them from falling if you can. Or try to guide the person gently to the floor.
But be careful not to apply too much pressure to the body.
Putting something in the person's mouth may cause injuries, such as chipped teeth or a fractured jaw. You could also get bitten.
This can cause injury, such as a dislocated shoulder.
No matter what caused the seizure, you can help someone after they've had a seizure.
If you couldn't turn the person during the seizure, do it when the seizure ends and the person is more relaxed.
If the person is having trouble breathing, call 911.
Most people will be sleepy or confused after a seizure.
A person who has had a seizure should not drive, swim, climb ladders, or operate machinery until they've seen a doctor about the seizure and the doctor has said it's okay to drive or operate machinery.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
December 13, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: December 13, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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