Exactly What is a Seizure?

A seizure (or convulsion) is the collection of physical findings or changes in one’s behavior that occur after the brain has experienced an episode of abnormal electrical activity.  Most seizures last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes and do not result in permanent injury.  In some cases, however a seizure may last longer than 5 minutes or several successive seizures may occur between which a person may not regain consciousness.

While seizures are most commonly associated with muscle rigidity and the body shaking rapidly and uncontrollably due to repeated cycles of involuntary muscle contraction and relaxation, this is characteristic of only some types of seizures e.g. tonic clonic seizures, focal seizures and febrile seizures.  These seizures may also incorporate additional specific symptoms depending on the portion of the brain involved.  In contrast, Petit mal seizures are generally characterized by staring spells, lasting 15 seconds or less.   All seizures can be preceeded by an aura which may involve dizziness, hallucinations, nausea or sensory changes like flashing bright lights.

When  seizures persist after the underlying problem is treated, the condition is called epilepsy.

Source: Medline Plus
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