When to Call 911
A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. Seizures can take several forms from staring to severe muscle contractions.
Call 911 or seek medical help immediately if:
A seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
A second seizure follows immediately after the first seizure stops.
Breathing or consciousness does not return after the seizure stops.
The person is having a high fever or heat exhaustion.
If the person is pregnant or has diabetes.
If an injury occurs during the seizure.
What is a Seizure?
A seizure occurs when the electrical impulses created, sent, or received by neurons (nerve cells) in the brain are disrupted.
Other causes of seizures include:
Hyponatremia or low blood sodium, possibly from taking diuretics
Medication, from taking certain pain relievers or antidepressants
Illegal or recreational drugs
What Does a Seizure Look Like?
Seizures can take many forms and a person having a seizure can have a range of symptoms.
Loss of consciousness
Emotional or cognitive symptoms including anxiety, deja vu, and fear
Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
Types of Seizures
Can occur with or without loss of consciousness
May stare into space and not respond
May show repeating motions like chewing, swallowing, walking in circles, or hand-rubbing
(a seizure that happens in all areas of the brain)
Absence seizures – often seen in children, and include staring into space, eye blinking, lip smacking, or other subtle movements. They may occur in clusters and cause loss of awareness.
Tonic seizures – cause the muscles to become stiff, particularly in the arms, legs, and back. This causes the person to fall.
Atonic seizures or drop seizures – cause loss of muscle control, resulting in collapse or fall.
Clonic seizures – cause muscles to jerk with rhythmic or repeated movements, usually in the face, arms, and neck.
Myoclonic seizures – cause brief jerks or twitches of the arms and legs.
Tonic-clonic seizures – can cause loss of consciousness, loss of bladder control, tongue biting, and occasionally loss of bladder control. This is the most dramatic type of seizure.
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