The Epilepsy Center of Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute improves lives by providing the most innovative treatments for individuals with seizures. Our multidisciplinary team of specialty-trained epilepsy neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, nurse practitioners and others works together to provide you with personalized care. The goal of treatment is to enable you to live a life free from seizures.
Seizures are the signs or symptoms that result from abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They come in many different forms, ranging from mild to severe, with varying symptoms depending on the location and the extent of electrical irregularities in the brain.
When witnessing a seizure, the best thing to do is to remove any objects nearby that pose a risk for injury and monitor the individual’s breathing and pulse. Never forcibly restrain an individual who is having a convulsion as that can increase risk of injury. Similarly never place any object or fingers into the mouth of a person having a seizure, as there is a risk of injury, breaking a tooth or breathing a foreign object into the lung. Instead, place a soft cushion or rolled garment under the head to protect against injury during the convulsion.
Prolonged seizures lasting more than 5 minutes may require immediate medical attention. They may be a sign of a serious underlying neurological issue and can cause injury, pose safety risks and have negative effects on mental and physical wellbeing. Seek out a medical professional if you think you are suffering the symptoms of a seizure.
Seizures are due to disrupted electrical activity that take place in the large part of your brain. Some causes of seizures include:
- Rapid metabolic changes, including low level glucose levels
- Sudden, high rise in body temperature
- Birth defect
- Family history of seizure
- Brain injury
- Illicit drug use
- Brain tumor
- Encephalitis or other brain infections
- Drug withdrawal
- Sleep deprivation
Warning signs of seizures have been reported to involve feelings of anxiety or déjà vu, a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, dizziness, flushing, changes in sensation, focal limb jerking or changes in vision such as seeing flashing or bright lights, spots or lines.
Seizures occur suddenly and can include:
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Behavioral changes
- Sudden changes in mood
- Frothing at the mouth
- Unusual eye movements
- Sudden falling
- Clenched teeth
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Impaired breathing
If your doctor suspects that you’ve had a seizure, the focus will be on determining an underlying medical condition that may have triggered it. This may include reviewing your medical history and eyewitness reports.
Diagnosis may also include a thorough medical and neurological examination with a variety of tests, such as:
- Blood tests
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Drug screen
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
- Brain CT or MRI
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
If you’ve been diagnosed with seizures, you’ll be prescribed an anti-seizure medication. Your doctor will start with a low dosage and adjust this based upon what is needed to control your seizures. Additional treatment may include surgery, vagus nerve stimulation implant or lifestyle changes, which include:
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Getting plenty of rest
- Ketogenic diet