announcement

Help someone with useful health advice.

Seizures in Adults

Seizures in Adults

The article presents some basic facts on seizures in adults, along with some first aid steps that you can employ to help the victim relax.
Kalpana Kumari
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2018
The term 'seizure' refers to the sudden abnormal behavioral changes that occur due to an abnormal electrical activity in one's brain. Such an abnormal electrical activity in the brain may cause a change in the one's level of awareness. This may lead to behavioral changes and abnormal movements. One may experience sudden jerky movements. There are different types of seizures that could affect children and adults.
What are the Symptoms of Seizures in Adults?
The symptoms of seizures would vary depending on the part of the brain that is affected by the abnormal electrical activity. Here's a list of some of the common symptoms of seizures.
  • Muscle twitching or spasms
  • Jerking
  • Automatism (complex, repetitive movement), which may include lip smacking, chewing or swallowing without a reason, etc.
  • Muscle tension
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Changes in mood
  • Flushed face
  • Blackout spells
  • Sudden halt in conscious activity
  • Lack of awareness of surroundings
  • Loss of consciousness
What are the Causes of Seizures?
Here are some of the medical conditions that may be responsible for causing seizures.
Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a condition that is associated with the deposition of cholesterol in the arteries. It leads to hardening of the arteries. When it occurs in the arteries around the brain, it may cause seizures.
Degenerative Diseases: The functional ability of the body may decrease after the age of 60. Diseases related with old age such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease etc. can be the reason behind seizures in elderly people.
Infection in the Brain: Abnormal electrical activity in the brain may occur due to an infection in the brain. Meningitis or viral encephalitis are infections that could cause seizures in adults. Accumulation of fluid in the brain that may occur due to infections could cause misfiring of electrical impulses in the brain, thereby causing seizures. Brain tumor and epilepsy are other conditions that may cause seizures.
Intracranial Hemorrhage: Intracranial hemorrhage refers to bleeding in the brain. A brain injury could cause bleeding in the brain. This may affect the central nervous system which in turn may cause one to have a seizure.
Metabolic Disorders: Some metabolic disorders that could make one susceptible to seizures include hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, hypomagnesemia, hepatic encephalopathy, etc.
Withdrawal: Withdrawal from addictive substances such as alcohol, heroin etc. can cause seizures. This is because regular intake of such drugs changes the physical pathways of nervous system. When the addicted person does not take these drugs, seizures occur as a withdrawal symptom. Therefore, drug withdrawal should be done under specialized medical supervision
What are the Types of Seizures in Adults?
Now that you have a basic idea about the causes and symptoms of seizures, let's find out about the types of seizures. Seizures are mainly classified into generalized seizures and partial seizures. This classification is based on whether the source of abnormal electrical activity in the brain is restricted to a part of the brain or the brain in its entirety.
Partial Seizures
Partial seizures are caused when the malfunctioning neurons are located at one part of any cerebral hemisphere (one half of the brain). Partial seizures are further classified into simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures.
  • Simple partial seizures are further categorized depending on the nature of the symptoms exhibited by the affected individual. One may exhibit motor, autonomic, sensory or psychological symptoms. While the patient is awake and there's no change in his/her level of awareness, motor symptoms such as jerking, twitching or muscle spasms may be experienced. Unusual sensory sensations may also be felt. Sensation of déja vu or emotional disturbance could also be experienced.
  • A complex partial seizure is characterized by a change in one's alertness or awareness. The affected individual may display automatisms or involuntary but coordinated movements that may be repetitive. Such automatisms may include chewing, lip smacking or fidgeting.
  • Sometimes abnormal electrical activity in the brain may spread from a part of the brain to the entire brain. Such a seizure is referred to as a partial seizure with secondary generalization.
Generalized Seizures
Generalized seizures involve the entire brain. Generalized seizures are divided into the following categories.
  • Absence seizure, which is also called 'petit mal' seizure, is characterized by an altered state of consciousness. A staring episode is a characteristic sign of absence seizures in adults as well as children. The affected individual may become silent and stare blankly. Since the affected person is unaware of the surroundings, he/she may not even realize that he/she is having a seizure. This type of seizure usually lasts for a few seconds.
  • The second type of generalized seizure is myoclonic seizure. Myoclonic seizure in adults is characterized by brief shock-like jerks of a muscle or a group of muscles. Such seizures may occur several times a day.
  • The third type is known as atonic seizure. This type of seizure is characterized by a sudden loss of muscle tone. This may cause the affected individual to fall from a standing position or drop things.
  • The fourth type of seizure is called tonic seizure. Such seizures start with sudden stiffening of the muscles. One's eyes may roll back and muscles of the chest, arms or legs may contract. One may find it hard to breathe.
  • A clonic seizure is a type of generalized seizure that is characterized by repeated rhythmic jerks on both sides of the body.
  • Seizures could also occur while one is asleep. Nocturnal seizures are usually tonic-clonic. Tonic-clonic seizures, which are also referred to as 'grand mal' seizures, occur due to sudden contraction of the muscles. Tonic and clonic are two phases of this type of seizure. During the tonic phase, the limbs become stiff and rigid and one may even experience difficulty in breathing. The patient may develop loss of bowel or bladder control. The tonic phase lasts for a few seconds. It is followed by clonic phase, which lasts for less than 90 seconds. The clonic phase is marked by rhythmic contractions in a violent manner. People who suffer from such seizures become very tired and usually sleep for long hours after the attack.
  • The last type is called myoclonic seizure. The myoclonic seizures are characterized by sporadic and jerking movements on both sides of the body.
If you see someone having a seizure, you should try to ease the situation. First of all, give the victim some free space. Ask the bystanders to move away. If possible, place a soft pad underneath the victim's head and loosen the clothing around his neck. Make sure that nothing is blocking his/her airway. Seek medical help immediately if the seizure lasts for more than three minutes.