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What are seizures?

 An overview on epilepsy, seizures and their treatment


Brain disorder

Epilepsy is a brain disorder characterized by the occurrence of seizures or epileptic attacks. The term seizure is used to describe a variety of neurologic symptoms resulting from a prolonged abnormal electric discharge from a cluster of nerve cells in the brain. These neurologic symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure and can include: temporary confusion, strange sensations or behaviours, convulsions (sudden uncontrollable spasmodic movements of the arms and legs) and sometimes complete loss of consciousness.

Some people with epilepsy can experience seizures only occasionally, while others can have repeated attacks during the day. In any case people with epilepsy tend to experience the same symptoms each time they have an epileptic attack.

It is important to note that people who experience a single episode of seizures in their lifetime are not considered to have epilepsy, since a diagnosis of epilepsy implies a tendency to repeated seizures (at least two episodes in a lifetime).  

Classification of Seizures

Seizures can be classified in two main categories on the basis of clinical symptoms and EEG (electro-encephalogram) findings:

1- partial or focal seizures, when they originate from a single side of the brain

2- generalized seizures, when they originate from both sides of the brain. However, in some cases, seizures can begin as partial and then evolve into generalized.

Seizures typically resolve by themselves in a few minutes. Sometimes, however, they can last longer than 5 minutes or can recur without the patient regaining consciousness between two episodes. These conditions are known as "status epilepticus" which is a medical emergency that can lead to permanent brain damage and even death.

In many cases the exact cause of epilepsy cannot be identified and their origin is said to be idiopathic (without known cause). Idiopathic epilepsy typically occurs in children and teenagers and is associated with unknown genetic or metabolic factors. On the contrary, epilepsy occurring later in life (usually after 40 years of age) has often an identifiable specific cause, such as brain tumors, injuries, infections or circulatory disorders.

Controlling Seizures

Epilepsy has no cure. However many patients can live normal, seizure-free lives when epilepsy is properly treated* and seizures are controlled. Antiepileptic medicines are the first choice treatment, followed by surgery as second-line treatment.

In many cases medical treatment with antiepileptic is effective in controlling seizures even from the first dose, and sometimes patients can discontinue taking medications after two or more years of treatment and live a seizure-free life.

Unfortunately not all people with epilepsy respond to treatment (whether medical or surgical) and these patients are said to have intractable epilepsy. The existence of this condition underlines that the need of developing new improved treatments is pressing.

 It is important to remember that there are also certain home remedies that can help control seizures, although they are not alternative to drug treatment. For example, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol use, avoiding smoking and managing stress are important lifestyle habits that can reduce the occurrence of epileptic attacks.


Because the treatment of epileptic seizures and/or their possible complications (car accidents, fallings, drowning injuries) can place a great financial burden on patients or their families, it should be covered by an appropriate health insurance plan. 

International Health Cover is a global International Health Insurance advisor. We offer high quality advice over a complete range of comprehensive International Medical Insurance plans. Our quotation and advice are completely free.

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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.