Convulsions (Seizures)

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What it feels like: losing control of your movements, an alternatingpattern of rigidity and relaxation, sometimes accompanied by a lossof consciousness.

Your Doctor Visit

What your doctor will ask you about: a “funny feeling” before orafter the attack, changes in vision or hearing, changes in your abilityto move, headache, fever or chills, stiff neck, tongue biting, loss ofconsciousness, loss of bladder or bowel control, palpitations, troublebreathing, nausea or vomiting.

Your doctor will want to know if you or anyone in your familyhas had any of these conditions: diabetes, hypertension, alcoholism, birth trauma, previous meningitis or encephalitis (braininfections), epilepsy, drug abuse, severe head trauma, chronic kidneydisease, stroke.

Your doctor will want to know if you experienced a head injuryprior to the convulsions, and if you may have eaten or drunkpoison.

Your doctor will want to know if you’re taking any of these med-ications: alcohol, anticonvulsants, insulin, diabetes medications, bloodpressure medications, sedatives such as Valium, antidepressants.

Your doctor will do a physical examination including the fol-lowing: blood pressure, pulse, temperature, thorough head exam tocheck for injury, thorough eye exam, checking your mouth for evidence of tongue biting, checking your neck for signs of stiffness, listening to your heart with a stethoscope, thorough skin exam, testingreflexes and movement.

WHAT CAN CAUSE CONVULSIONS, AND WHAT IS TYPICAL FOR EACH CAUSE?

Cause: Epilepsy
What is it: A brain disorder  characterized by  recurrent convulsions
Typcal Symptoms: Recurrent convulsions,  sometimes family history of  epilepsy

Cause:  Phenylketonuria
What is it: An inherited disorder that  leads to an inability to  process a substance  known as phenylalanine;  now tested for at birth  with a heel stick
Typcal Symptoms: Convulsions associated with developmental retar-dation, malformations frombirth; convulsions normally begin before 4 years of age

Cause: Tuberous  sclerosis
What is it: An inherited disorder   that involves the skin and nervous system;  characterized by facial  rash, benign tumors of  many organs, and mental retardation
Typcal Symptoms: Convulsions associated  with developmental retardation,  malformations  from birth; convulsions  normally begin before 4  years of age

Cause: Birth injuries
What is it: Varied, include cerebral  palsy
Typcal Symptoms:  Convulsions associated with developmental retardation,  malformationsfrom birth; convulsionsnormally begin before 4years of age

Cause:  Brain injury
What is it: Trauma to the brain
Typcal Symptoms: Severe head injury usuallycausing a fracture or penetration of the skull; convul-sions can begin monthsafter injury

Cause: Low blood  levels of anticonvulsant  medication
What is it: The result of a missed  dose or of taking a new  medication that interfereswith the anticonvulsant
Typcal Symptoms: No symptoms other than  convulsions

Cause: Stroke
What is it: A rupture or blockage in the blood vessels  supplying the brain
Typcal Symptoms: Sudden onset of paralysis  in one or more regions of  the body, typically with aloss of consciousness, more common in olderpatients; can then lead toconvulsions

Cause: Hypertensive  encephalopathy
What is it: Brain disease caused by high blood pressure
Typcal Symptoms: Convulsions in people with a history of high bloodpressure, often associatedwith headache, blurredvision, stupor

Cause: Infection
What is it: Examples: meningitis,  encephalitis, brain  abscess
Typcal Symptoms: Convulsions associated with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, sometimes stupor

Cause: Fever (child)
What is it: Elevation of body  temperature, generally  above 102 degrees F
Typcal Symptoms: Convulsions that appear in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 yearsassociated with a suddenelevation of temperature

Cause: Overdose or  withdrawal  from alcohol  or barbiturates
What is it: Taking too much of the   drug, or stopping   completely after a longterm habit
Typcal Symptoms: In the case of withdrawal  from alcohol, for example,  convulsions occur within  two days after you stopdrinking

Cause: Brain tumor
What is it: An abnormal growth of  cells in the brain
Typcal Symptoms:  Sudden onset of convul- sions; may be associatedwith severe and persistentheadache, nausea, andvomiting; more common inolder patients