Seizures

Also known as: convulsions, focal seizures, partial seizures, generalized seizures, epilepsy

What are seizures?

A seizure is a sudden abnormal burst of electrical activity in one or more parts of the brain from a variety of causes, that interrupt the normal brain signals and result in a wide variety of symptoms depending on from where the electrical signals originate.
The main types of seizures are focal (partial seizures) or generalized. Both are quite common in infants and children. When a child has recurrent seizures for which no cause can be found it’s diagnosed as epilepsy.
 

What causes seizures? 

The most common type of seizure is associated with fever (often with a high temperature and called a febrile seizure). For many children with recurrent seizures the cause is unknown, though in some there is a family history of seizures. Other causes include:

And a wide variety of other uncommon conditions.
 

What are the signs/symptoms of seizures? 

Depending on where in the brain the abnormal electrical activity originates, seizure symptoms will vary.
The common signs of seizures include:

  • changes in movement, body shaking uncontrollably with the muscles alternating between contraction and relaxation stiffness of limbs

  • staring

  • loss of consciousness

  • loss of bowel or bladder control

  • rolling or rapid blinking of the eyes

  • drooling, grunting, clenching of teeth

  • bluish tinge to lips or tongue (cyanosis).

Some present with attention or changes in level of awareness. Most seizures pass within two minutes; seizures that last longer can be a medical emergency.
 

What are seizure care options? 

First aid management includes preventing the child from harming themselves. Glasses should be removed, the child should be laid in a safe area on their side, unrestrained, and nothing should be placed in the child’s mouth. If the child stops breathing for more than 1 minute, mouth to mouth rescue resuscitation should be started, and/or if the seizure is prolonged, 911 should be called.
Management of recurrent seizures will involve management by a team of subspecialists with a wide variety of medical, surgical and other options available, depending on the specific needs of your child.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 15/06/2018 8:07:25 a. m.


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Reshma Naidoo, PhD of Nicklaus Children's Hospital is a pediatric neuropsychologist and neurorehabilitation speacialits with the Brain Institute.