Symptoms and Signs of Seizures (Epilepsy)

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/24/2021

Doctor's Notes on Seizures (Epilepsy)

A seizure is abnormal and uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, that may result in a physical convulsion, minor physical signs thought disturbances or a combination of symptoms. There are different types of seizures, depending primarily on what part of the brain is involved. 

Symptoms of seizures may range from jerking movements in a single extremity to abnormal movements throughout the entire body. Symptoms depend on which area of the brain the seizure originates. Some seizures may cause

  • strange sensations,
  • small repetitive movements such as picking at clothes or lip-smacking,
  • blank staring,
  • crying out or making some sound,
  • stiffening for a few seconds,
  • the appearance of not breathing,
  • a dazed or confused appearance,
  • impaired consciousness, or repetitive blinking or other small movements,
  • loss of bladder or bowel control,
  • biting one’s own tongue, and a gradual return to consciousness, and
  • confusion following the seizure. 

What Is the Treatment for a Seizure?

The treatment of a seizure will depend upon what type of seizure you had and what caused the seizure. If someone is actively having a seizure follow these steps:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Make sure the patient is safe by clearing the area around them of hazards
  • If vomiting occurs turn the patient on their side
  • DO NOT stick anything in the patient’s mouth to prevent them from biting their tongue, it is dangerous and unnecessary
  • Stay with the patient as they wake up
  • They may be confused at first (this can be normal after a seizure)
  • Benzodiazepines are often started by first responders or medical providers during an acute seizure

Depending on the cause and type of seizure, medications are often started. While doctors are figuring out the cause of the seizures, or if it is unclear, broad-spectrum anti-seizure medications may be started. Broad-spectrum anti-seizure medications include:

While taking anti-seizure medication, do not start taking any other medications including over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements without first checking with your doctor. Anti-seizure medications can interact with many other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements, so mixing them can be dangerous.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.