Approximately 1 in 10 people worldwide will experience a seizure at some time in their life. A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. It is caused by anything that interrupts normal activity in the brain.
During a seizure, a victim can look confused, may behave oddly, or lose consciousness. Seizures can also cause the body to jerk all over or just in certain parts.
Although there are many different types of seizures, they are typically divided into two broad categories: generalised seizures (involving the entire brain) and focal or partial-onset seizures (produced by activity in a small area of the brain, at least initially). A generalised seizure can cause a loss of consciousness, falls, or massive muscle spasms (convulsions). A partial or focal seizure can cause a range of symptoms, from uncontrolled movements to strange sensations, and often may progress to a generalised seizure. Another type of seizure, called an absence seizure, is quite different and is most often seen in children. In an absence seizure, the child may remain conscious but appear inattentive for the short duration of the seizure.
When someone experiences two or more seizures for no obvious reason, a doctor may diagnose epilepsy. Over 250,000 Australians and over 50,000 New Zealanders have epilepsy.
If you have even one seizure, you should tell your doctor about it. In order to share as clear a description of the event as possible, gather as much information as you can from anyone who may have witnessed the seizure. Also, be sure to tell your doctor about any other recent symptoms or health concerns. Your doctor can use this information to determine possible causes of the seizure, and, if necessary, to work with you on creating an individualized plan that may help keep seizures under control.
How to Help Someone Suffering a Seizure
What should you do if you see someone who may be having a generalised seizure?
- Stay calm and time the seizure. Seizures can be alarming, and it may seem like someone is suffering a seizure for a long time. But most seizures only last seconds or a couple of minutes. If the person’s seizure lasts longer than two to five minutes, you should call for emergency help.
- Ease the person to the floor. If the person having the seizure hasn’t already fallen to the ground, try to ease them onto the floor, so they won’t fall abruptly and get hurt.
- Loosen clothing or jewellery around the neck. This can help keep the person’s airway open.
- Turn the victim on his or her side. It’s important to keep the person having a seizure from inhaling any fluids or choking.
- Don’t try to stop the person from having a seizure, and never try to force anything into the mouth or hold the tongue down.
- Stay with them until the seizure stops. When they awaken, they may not know what happened at first. Stay with the person until they are no longer groggy or confused.
- 1. WHO Epilepsy Fact Sheet. Accessed 24/01/2017.
- 2. Epilepsy Australia. Epilepsy Explained. Accessed 24/01/2017.
- 3. US Epilepsy Foundation. What Is a Seizure? Accessed 24/01/2017.
- 4. Epilepsy Action Australia. Facts And Statistics About Epilepsy. Accessed 24/01/2017.
- 5. Epilepsy NZ. Epilepsy FAQ. Accessed 24/01/2017.