Posted on May 21, 2024

Demystifying Seizures: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Types and Triggers

Understanding seizures can be the first step to managing them effectively. Seizures are sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain that can cause changes in your behavior, movements muscle tones, sensations, and levels of consciousness.

This guide aims to demystify seizures by exploring their types and triggers, helping you gain a clearer understanding of this complex condition.

What are Seizures?

Seizures occur when there is an abnormal surge of electrical activity in the brain. This can result in a variety of symptoms, from mild, momentary lapses in awareness to severe convulsions. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for proper diagnosis and management.

Types of Seizures

Seizures are broadly classified into three main categories: focal seizures, generalized seizures, and unknown onset seizures, as per the New Classification of Seizures by the International League Against Epilepsy, 2017. 

They are categorized on the basis of where they originate in the brain and the impact they have on a person. They can be further sub-classified into Motor & Non-Motor seizures.

1. Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain and can affect the entire body. They are divided into several subtypes, each with distinct characteristics.

They include:

  • Absence (Petit Mal) Seizures: Characterized by brief, sudden lapses in attention.
  • Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal) Seizures: Involve convulsions and loss of consciousness.
  • Myoclonic Seizures: Sudden, brief jerks or twitches of the muscles.
  • Tonic Seizures: Muscle stiffness and rigidity.
  • Atonic Seizures: Sudden loss of muscle tone.
  • Clonic Seizures: Repeated rhythmic jerking movements.

Triggers for generalized seizures can include sleep deprivation, flashing lights, and specific medical conditions.

2. Focal Seizures

Focal seizures stem from a specific region of the brain, and are also known as partial seizures. They can further be divided into two categories based on the individual’s level of awareness during the seizure.

They can be further categorized into:

  • Focal Aware (Previously Simple Partial) Seizures: The person remains conscious and can remember the event.
  • Focal Impaired Awareness (Previously Complex Partial) Seizures: The person has altered consciousness and may not recall the seizure.

Common triggers for focal seizures include stress, sleep deprivation, and sensory stimuli such as flashing lights.

3. Unknown Onset Seizures

When the beginning of a seizure is not witnessed or not clear, it is classified as an unknown onset seizure. These seizures can be difficult to identify and diagnose, making management more challenging. Potential triggers are similar to those of focal and generalized seizures.

Common Triggers of Seizures

Several factors can provoke seizures, including:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Flashing or bright lights
  • Certain medications or changes in medication
  • Alcohol or recreational drug use
  • Hormonal changes, especially in women
  • Illness or fever

Living with Seizures

Managing seizures involves a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and support. Key strategies include:

  • Adhering to prescribed medications
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Reducing stress through relaxation techniques
  • Avoiding known triggers
  • Regular medical check-ups

When to Seek Medical Help

It is crucial to seek medical help if you experience a seizure for the first time, if seizures become more frequent or severe, or if they last longer than usual. A comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional can provide a personalized treatment plan.

Summing Up

By understanding the types of seizures and their triggers, individuals and caregivers can better manage this condition. If you’re worried about your child’s seizures or want to learn more about managing this condition, reach out to Dr. Aman PS Sohal, a pediatric neurologist in Dubai