Monday, May 27

Early Detection: 9 Subtle Signs of a Seizure

What are the early signs of a seizure?

Seizures have been described as uncontrolled signals between brain cells, and sometimes these signals can become chronic or recurrent. When seizures become a consistent issue, this condition is called epilepsy. However, you may experience a seizure without having epilepsy, but you can’t have epilepsy without seizures.

A seizure doesn’t always look like what you see in the movies; moreover, a new survey shows that most Americans can’t identify the more subtle signs of a seizure. According to experts, because seizures often look different than those “cinematic ones” we see on television and in movies, they can go undiagnosed for a long time.

This being said, it’s important to raise awareness among people, especially seniors, who are more likely to experience seizures. Without further ado, here are nine early signs of a seizure!

signs of a seizure
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What’s a seizure?

Before we dive into the actual list of subtle signs of a seizure, let’s find out more about the condition. Basically, a seizure happens when there’s abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Usually, there’s a burst of electrical activity during a seizure. The electrical activity goes back to its normal levels afterward, which is the brain’s method of recovering.

It’s reported that about 10% of people will have at least one episode of this kind in their lifetime. It’s most common in children and the elderly. If you experience more than one unprovoked seizure, you’ll likely be diagnosed with epilepsy. It’s recommended to wear one of these bracelets to alert others of your condition in case of an emergency.

Nonepileptic seizures are the ones caused by factors that aren’t related to epilepsy. Some of the causes include fever, infections like meningitis, head injuries, choking, drug withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal, stroke, very high blood pressure, a low blood sugar level, metabolic problems like liver or kidney failure, and a brain tumor.

Seizures can be a dangerous medical condition, especially if you can’t tell when one is coming. You could fall and hit your head or be in an unsafe situation—like driving—when a seizure happens. Luckily, many people who have seizures have warning signs that one is about to strike.

What are the signs of a seizure?

Many different symptoms may show up with a seizure. It varies not only between individuals but also by the kind of seizure. They include:

  • Uncontrollable movements of one or more limbs
  • Reduced or loss of consciousness, for example, blacking out or not feeling quite there
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Changes in your sensations (smell, vision, etc.)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Jerking movements
  • Tongue biting
  • A headache
  • A feeling of being sick to your stomach

Signs that indicate a seizure is in progress include drooling or frothing at the mouth, clenching your teeth, having a strange taste in your mouth, making unusual noises, such as grunting, having sudden, rapid eye movements, and falling.

Most seizures last for less than three minutes and will stop on their own, without any treatment.

What happens after a seizure?

While it’s important to know the signs of a seizure, it’s also paramount to know what to do after one strikes. After a seizure has ended, there’s a recovery phase called the post-ictal phase before you come back to your normal state.

During this phase, you may be sore, confused, thirsty, or tired. You may also feel anxious, sick, or weak, have a headache, or have lost control of your bowel or bladder.

You may or may not remember the seizure. It may take several hours, or even days, to return to normal. But before diving into the effects of seizures, let’s dive into the different types of seizures.

What types of seizures are there?

Now, it’s important to note that there are different types of seizures based on which part of the brain they start, if you’re aware of them or not, and if there is a change in your movement.

Focal onset

Focal-onset seizures begin in one small area of the brain (known as the “focus”) and may spread to other parts of the brain. These are known as partial seizures, and someone who experiences one can either be fully aware of what’s going on or their awareness may be affected.

Generalized onset

Generalized-onset seizures affect both sides of the brain. This may cause you to lose consciousness. They can have two different forms. There are generalized motor seizures, when you may make jerking and stiffening movements or have other muscle effects.

And there are generalized non-motor seizures, when you experience changes in awareness, may stare, or display repeated movements like pulling at clothes or lip-smacking.

Unknown onset

Unknown-onset seizures are those that haven’t been diagnosed as either one of the two types mentioned above because it’s not clear in which part of the brain the seizure started. This may be because you were alone or asleep when the signs of a seizure appeared.

signs of a seizure
Photo by DC Studio from Shutterstock

What are the effects of seizures?

Now that we’ve rounded up some early signs of a seizure and talked a bit about the different types of the condition, let’s see how it affects the person who experiences it. Living with epilepsy and having repeated seizures can have both short- and long-term effects. These can range from a decrease in quality of life to higher risks of mental health conditions.

Short-term effects

Some seizures can cause you to completely lose control of your body. This can result in falls and other movements that can lead to injuries. This is why it’s important to be able to identify early signs of a seizure, so you can at least avoid hurting yourself.

Patients with epilepsy usually have more physical issues, such as fractures and bruising, than people without the condition.

Being susceptible to experiencing seizures may also affect your quality of life. For instance, you may no longer be able to drive. You also may want to avoid situations where a similar episode could happen again and cause serious harm, such as swimming or traveling alone.

Long-term effects

Getting treatment after one episode of this is as important as being able to recognize the signs of a seizure. If you don’t get treatment, the symptoms can become worse and progressively last longer. According to experts, prolonged seizures can lead to coma or death.

Although seizures rarely result in death, the risk of premature death in patients with epilepsy is up to three times higher compared with the general population.

Living with epilepsy can have a significant impact on your mental health. People living with this condition may be anxious or depressed due to the worry of experiencing a seizure. They may also be worried about getting hurt, feel isolated, look for signs of a seizure when there are none, or experience stigma.

The chemical changes in the brain that can cause epilepsy may be linked to the different brain changes that can cause psychiatric conditions. Up to 30% of people with epilepsy also have serious mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

signs you got the wrong diagnosis
Photo by – Yuri A from Shutterstock

How are seizures diagnosed?

It’s essential to recognize the signs of a seizure so you can share this information with your doctor. He or she may recommend certain tests to accurately diagnose a seizure and ensure that the treatments they recommend will be effective.

Your doctor will consider the events leading up to the seizure as well as your complete medical history. For instance, sleep disorders, headaches, extreme psychological stress, and migraines can be similar to the signs of a seizure.

Lab tests may also help your doctor rule out other health conditions that can cause seizure-like activity.

If you liked our article on the early signs of a seizure, you may also want to read 9 Natural Ways to Reduce Migraine Symptoms.

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