A seizure is a frightening experience. At you can learn more about the causes and how you can help!


On seizure is an impressive experience. Those affected lose control of their body for a short time, suddenly sink to the ground, twitch and cramp. While demonic forces were thought to be the cause in the Middle Ages, it is now known that a seizure is the result of a disorder in the brain. Often a seizure is the symptom of epilepsy, but it can also be due to other causes such as hypoglycaemia or brain damage. With the right treatment you can usually prevent further seizures. Read here everything you need to seizure.

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  • description

  • Causes and possible diseases

  • When should you go to the doctor?

  • What does the doctor?

  • You can do that yourself

Seizure: description

A seizure is usually a sudden onset, involuntary event that can cause cramping, twitching, and loss of consciousness. Although all of these symptoms can occur together in the context of a seizure, this does not have to be the case.

If one understands the seizure as a synonym of the epileptic seizure, it must not necessarily come to a cramp, even if the name suggests this actually. Often, for example, only disturbances of consciousness or perception occur.

To distinguish from the seizure are other diseases and disorders that can lead to a cramping of the muscles. So it comes, for example, as a result of tetanus infection (tetanus) to muscle spasms on the whole body.

Individual muscle spasms, on the other hand, often cause electrolyte disturbances. Catatonia, on the other hand, in which patients become strained, is a psychomotor phenomenon and has nothing to do with a seizure.

Development of a seizure

A classic so-called cerebral seizure is caused by a malfunction of nerve cells (neurons) in the cerebral cortex. The normal task of a nerve cell is to generate or transmit signals. This happens millions of times in the brain every second, but in an orderly manner.

On the other hand, a seizure results in the loss of any order, so that certain groups of nerve cells suddenly discharge at the same time and forward their uncoordinated signals synchronously. Downstream nerve cells are thus infected so to speak. Figuratively speaking, a seizure can also be described as a "storm in the brain".

There are several types of seizures, with differentiation of focal from generalized seizures.

Focal seizure

At a focal seizure only a specific part of the brain is affected. Depending on the location of the out-of-control area, the symptoms may vary widely. If the focus of the convulsive seizure lies approximately in the area that controls the movement of the left leg, this can lead to movement disorders, convulsions and twitching.

Sensory and consciousness disorders can just as well occur in a focal seizure. A simple focal seizure, however, takes place with preserved consciousness of the person concerned.

Generalized seizure

One speaks of a generalized seizure, if not only a limited localization, but the entire brain is affected. This group is further subdivided into absences, tonic, clonic, tonic-clonic and atonic seizures.

  • at absences There is a sudden loss of consciousness, which usually takes only a few seconds. Those affected are unresponsive, show no reaction, but usually do not fall. After that they can not remember anything.
  • Clonic seizures characterized by a rhythmic, spasmodic contraction of muscle groups that appear like twitching.
  • At a tonic seizure The muscles also tighten, but the twitching stops. Patients often writhe on the floor for a few seconds before coming to their senses.

  • On atonic seizure occurs when in one part of the body musculature the tension suddenly subsides. For example, suddenly the chin falls on the chest, or the arm sinks limply.
  • At a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also called "large seizure" or "Grand Mal", sets first the tonic spasm phase, before then twitching occur. Before it comes to the seizure, some sufferers occasionally overcomes a malaise, strange sensory impressions, hallucinations or the like.
    This is called the so-called aura, At the beginning of the seizure, some also hear a loud cry, the so-called initial cry, out.When the seizure is over, a period of sleep and drowsiness may ensue, lasting from minutes to hours. (terminal sleeping).

If a cerebral seizure begins at first focal, but then grows to a generalized attack, it is a Secondary generalized seizure.

Complications of seizures

The muscle contractions during a seizure can be so strong that it too bone fractures comes. Frequently, patients bite on the tongue.
Most convulsions last only a few seconds to minutes, in the worst case, however, the attack continues.

If it lasts more than twenty minutes, there is a life-threatening emergency (Status epilepticus). In very rare cases, it may also be in the course of a seizure Cardiac arrest In addition, the patients run the risk of becoming one fall injured as a result of seizure.

Seizures: causes and possible diseases

Mostly seizures occur in the context of epilepsy. The neurons of those affected have an increased susceptibility to the occurrence of spontaneous and uncoordinated discharges. This may be the case for no apparent reason (idiopathic epilepsy), but also the consequence of certain stimuli:

  • That's how it goes injury of the brain to form scar tissue, which in turn may be the site of a seizure.
  • On increased intracranial pressure can also be the result of injury and is a risk factor for a seizure.
  • Also one Metabolic disorder such as low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) may be the cause of seizures.
  • Certain people solve certain things optical stimuli, for example, strobe lights in the disco, a seizure.
  • A seizure may also be the symptom of tumors or inflammation of the brain or the meninges (Meningitis, encephalitis).
  • Also after circulatory disorders, as in a case stroke occasionally seizures are the result.

  • In addition, you can poisoning, for example, with drugs like tricyclic antidepressantsTo induce seizures.
  • A longer lasting one Oxygen deficiency (hypoxia) eventually leads to undersupply of the body with the vital gas. If the brain does not get enough oxygen, seizures may result.
  • drug addicts or alcoholic, the one withdrawal also have an increased risk of having a seizure.

If a seizure occurs only once, or if it only follows certain triggers such as drugs, lack of sleep or acute central nervous system infections, epilepsy does not yet have to be present. These are more so-called opportunity seizures.

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Seizure: When should you go to the doctor?

Anyone who has had a seizure should, regardless of the severity of the seizure, In any case see a doctor. The specialist responsible in this case is the neurologist.

Since sufferers in some cases even do not even notice that they suffer from seizures (such as absenteeism), it is important to communicate this as an observer.

Diseases with this symptom

  • Leg Ulcer
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • alcoholism
  • encephalitis
  • Fifth disease
  • cerebral hemorrhage
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Roseola
  • carotid stenosis
  • meningitis

Seizures: What does the doctor do?

Diagnosis of a seizure

First, the doctor clarifies whether there really was a seizure. For this, other causes that can cause similar symptoms must be excluded. The exact description of the symptoms - either by the patient himself or by relatives - can be very helpful.

Information about the duration, the possible trigger, the time of seizure et cetera help to distinguish a seizure of circulatory disorders, mental events and other diseases.

Then one will Electroencephalogram (EEG) created: a device that makes brain waves visible. If there is a seizure, this shows up immediately in the measurements. The doctor may try to provoke a seizure - for example, by certain light stimuli, or deliberate hyperventilation.

An EEG can also be recorded for a long time. There is also the possibility to film the patient over a longer period of time, so that a possible seizure on Video recorded and thus possibly can be determined in more detail.

To find possible causes, the doctor can also help with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) look for abnormal structures in the brain and in the patient's blood for certain markers that may indicate metabolic disorders.

Treating a seizure

If it comes to more frequent seizures, or if the existence of an epilepsy is assured, this is treated. Although the disease can not be cured with conservative methods, the likelihood of further seizures can be significantly reduced.

  • The focus of the therapy are certain drugs, the so-called anticonvulsants, Although they are getting better and better, they often still have numerous side effects and interactions. In case of status epilepticus (see above) come first benzodiazepines for use.
  • Furthermore, patients should be careful to avoid possible triggers such as lack of sleep and excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Under certain circumstances, such as treatment failure of the drugs, come too surgical interventions question.

Seizure: You can do that yourself

Here's how you can help:

Anyone watching a seizure in another person, should keep calm. Mostly the seizure stops after a few minutes by itself. Otherwise you should:

  • dangerous objects near the spasmodic removeto avoid injury
  • The affected do not hold on and do not put any objects intended as a bite wedge into his mouth. As a result, there is only the risk that these items swallows or inhaled become.
  • The person in the best turn in abdominal or stable lateral position to the Secure respiratory system
  • the Call the emergency doctorif the seizure lasts longer than five minutes

If it is known that the seizures are already treated successfully in the patient, no doctor must be drawn in a minor attack, always with a first attack. Especially in children and adolescents, the spasms often disappear again over time. If you leave here the trial treatment over the drug treatment, it may never come back to seizure.

What should be considered

Even though the last seizure has been a long time ago, patients should always keep their illness in mind. So you better consider exercising certain high-risk occupations twice. Any steering of a motor vehicle or working at high altitudes can be life-threatening in the event of a seizure for the person concerned and its surroundings.

Patients are only allowed to drive if there has been no seizure for at least one year. There are different guidelines, depending on the severity of the Krampf attack and the driving license class of the person concerned.

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