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Characteristics of seizures (physical events that occur due to a change in electrical activity in the brain) include convulsions and loss of consciousness. In some instances, they can cause temporary abnormal sensations or visual disturbances. Possible causes include a severe head injury, an imbalance of chemicals in the body, and alcohol and drug withdrawal. Two or more seizures are often an indication of epilepsy.

What Are Seizures?

Seizures are episodes that occur when there is a sudden, brief change in electrical activity in the brain. When people experience seizures, their consciousness, movement, or actions may be altered for a short time. They affect people of all races and nationalities.

Causes of Seizures

A person can have a seizure for a number of reasons. Some people can experience a seizure and not have epilepsy. For example, many young children have convulsions from fevers (see Febrile Seizures).
Other types of seizures include those caused by an imbalance of body fluids or chemicals, such as low blood sugar in people with diabetes, or by alcohol or drug withdrawal.
Other causes of seizures may include:
  • Severe head injury
  • An infection of the brain
  • Eclampsia
  • Tumor
  • Stroke
  • Certain other medical conditions.

Symptoms of Seizures

Although there are many types of seizures, each with its own symptoms, you should consult a healthcare provider if you or a member of your family experiences one or more of these possible symptoms:
  • "Blackouts" or periods of confused memory
  • Episodes of staring or unexplained periods of unresponsiveness
  • Involuntary movement of arms and legs
  • "Fainting spells," with incontinence or followed by excessive fatigue
  • Odd sounds, distorted perceptions, or episodic feelings of fear that cannot be explained.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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