Seizure, Adult

ExitCare ImageA seizure is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can cause a change in attention or behavior (altered mental status). Seizures often involve uncontrollable shaking (convulsions). Seizures usually last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a patient has repeated seizures over time.


There are many different problems that can cause seizures. In some cases, no cause is found. Common causes of seizures include:

  • Head injuries.

  • Brain tumors.

  • Infections.

  • Imbalance of chemicals in the blood.

  • Kidney failure or liver failure.

  • Heart disease.

  • Drug abuse.

  • Stroke.

  • Withdrawal from certain drugs or alcohol.

  • Birth defects.

  • Malfunction of a neurosurgical device placed in the brain.


Symptoms vary depending on the part of the brain that is involved. Right before a seizure, you may have a warning (aura) that a seizure is about to occur. An aura may include the following symptoms:

  • Fear or anxiety.

  • Nausea.

  • Feeling like the room is spinning (vertigo).

  • Vision changes, such as seeing flashing lights or spots.

Common symptoms during a seizure include:

  • Convulsions.

  • Drooling.

  • Rapid eye movements.

  • Grunting.

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control.

  • Bitter taste in the mouth.

After a seizure, you may feel confused and sleepy. You may also have an injury resulting from convulsions during the seizure.


Your caregiver will perform a physical exam and run some tests to determine the type and cause of your seizure. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests.

  • A lumbar puncture test. In this test, a small amount of fluid is removed from the spine and examined.

  • Electrocardiography (ECG). This test records the electrical activity in your heart.

  • Imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Electroencephalography (EEG). This test records the electrical activity in your brain.


Seizures usually stop on their own. Treatment will depend on the cause of your seizure. In some cases, medicine may be given to prevent future seizures.


  • If you are given medicines, take them exactly as prescribed by your caregiver.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not swim or drive until your caregiver says it is okay.

  • Teach friends and family what to do if you have a seizure. They should:

  • Lay you on the ground to prevent a fall.

  • Put a cushion under your head.

  • Loosen any tight clothing around your neck.

  • Turn you on your side. If vomiting occurs, this helps keep your airway clear.

  • Stay with you until you recover.


  • The seizure lasts longer than 2 to 5 minutes.

  • The seizure is severe or the person does not wake up after the seizure.

  • The person has altered mental status.

Drive the person to the emergency department or call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.).


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.