To first understand seizures, you need to understand how the brain functions. The human brain is made up of billions of nerve cells, which are called neurons. These neurons communicate with each other through tiny electrical impulses occurring sequentially. When a seizure occurs, these electrical impulses are occurring simultaneously (this is abnormal) which causes intense waves of electricity thereby overwhelming the brain, resulting in a seizure.
Just about anyone can have a seizure under certain circumstances for instance, when there’s a lack of oxygen, a high fever or head trauma, this could bring about a seizure in anyone.
Epilepsy is seizures that occur more than once, a tendency to intermittent abnormal brain activity. This is further classified into generalized or partial epilepsy.
Generalized epilepsy refers to seizure signs which are as a result of abnormal activity emitting from the entire brain.
There are 4 kinds of generalized epilepsy
- Tonic/ clonic (grand mal) – Limb stiffen (the tonic phase) and then jerk forcefully (clonic phase), with loss of consciousness
- Absence – awareness is lost briefly (sudden stop mid-sentence and carries on where they left off), usually unaware of the seizure.
- Infantile spasm – as the name implies, occurs in infants usually stops by age 4. Child’s body gets stiff suddenly, clusters of head nodding plus arm jerks
- Myoclonic seizures – suddenly thrown to the ground, usually, occurs in ages 1-7 yrs.
Partial on the other hand begins in a specific hemisphere (focal) and may spread to the entire brain. Another classification depends on whether consciousness is affected or not. In cases where consciousness is affected, it is termed complex and simple when not.
There are 2 types Partial Seizures
Focal onset aware seizure – seizure is brief, consciousness is retained.
Focal onset impaired awareness seizures – consciousness reduced or absent. Often do things without realising like rubbing of the face, lip smacking, running, thrusting of the pelvis.
In children, diagnosing seizures can be tricky as seizures are over quickly and often times a doctor will not have seen the child having one. Information given by parents or witnesses comes in handy when making a diagnosis.
Seizures can be brought about by some factors, although often times can also be idiopathic- this simply means no cause can be exactly attributed to a seizures occurrence.
Causative factors when found could be due to the following;
- Infection – Meningitis
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Low blood sugar
- Trauma – Head injuries
- Metabolic defects
- Brain tumors
- Flickering lights – TV
Seizures are treatable after a diagnosis and classification have been made. This is the job of your doctor, as seizures involve brain activity. Do not delay in reporting this to your doctor if your child experiences one.