A seizure occurs when there are disruptions in the electrical signals of the brain’s cells (neurons). In a typical brain, this interactivity between neurons is ordered and balanced. However, when multiple neurons misfire simultaneously it can cause sudden changes in an individual’s sensation, behavior, and/or consciousness. The severity of this condition depends on the location and intensity of these electrical disruptions.
A seizure is classified as either generalized (appearing to begin in both sides of the brain) or focal (beginning in only one part of the brain). Seizures can be further subcategorized to include specific symptoms and regions of origin in the brain. For example, simple focal seizures occur in a single part of the brain, and abnormal activity is usually confined to one muscle group, such as the legs or arms. In seizures (generalized), symptoms are more severe and involve muscle stiffening, loss of consciousness, and muscle spasms.
In both a focal and generalized seizure, there may be three parts:
- Aura – This is the beginning of the seizure and affects individuals in different ways. Some may experience changes in sensation while others may not sense the aura at all. When the aura occurs alone, it is a simple focal seizure.
- Ictus – This is middle of the seizure during which the physical effects, such as muscle spasms and loss of consciousness, occur.
- Postictal – This stage occurs after the seizure. The patient may experience symptoms such as partial paralysis, numbness, and even continued loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy, which is a seizure disorder, is diagnosed when a patient experiences two or more unprovoked seizures. At Tampa General Hospital, we have a Level 4 epilepsy center, meaning we provide the highest possible level of medical and surgical services. In fact, our epilepsy program is the first in the nation to receive disease-specific certification from The Joint Commission, a recognition only provided to programs that meet the highest standards of care.