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Seizure can also refer to the act of taking hold of property, for this meaning see Seizure (law)


Someone who has bitten the tip of their tongue while having a seizure

A seizure is when the nerves of somebody act strangely. Nerves transmit information. They do this by electrical impulses and by some chemical substances called transmitters. To the outside viewer, these seizures show as episodes of heavy shaking.[1] Depending on the seizure, the shaking may be short and difficult to detect or it may be longer.

There are many different types of seizures. They are named by how much of the brain they affect and what happens to the person when they are having that type of seizure. Some of these are:

  • Partial - when only a small part of the brain is involved in the seizure. These seizures can be more specifically called:
    • simple partial - when the person stays awake the whole time the seizure is happening and may twitch, feel dizzy, or smell and taste things that are not there.
    • complex partial - when the person "zones out" during the seizure and may start walking around, experience deja vu, laugh, feel afraid, see things that are not there, or smell something bad.
  • Generalized - when a larger part of the brain, often parts of both hemispheres or sides, is involved in the seizure. These seizures can be more specifically called:
    • tonic-clonic - when the person faints, falls down, and starts having involuntary jerking motions. They may bite their tongue, scream, drool, urinate or defecate. This kind of seizure often follows an aura, or strange feeling the person has, although not all people who have epilepsy get these feelings. Tonic-clonic seizures can last up to 20 minutes.
    • absence - when a person faints, but does not have the jerking motions associated with a tonic-clonic seizure. Other people may not know that the person is having a seizure at all. The person may simply freeze in place and pick up where they left off when the seizure is over. The person having the seizure usually does not remember it afterward. This kind of seizure only lasts up to 10 seconds.
    • myoclonic - when a person suddenly experiences a jerking motion, usually on both sides of the body. This kind of seizure is most common in children under 5, although myoclonic seizures can be seen in adults, characterised by something known as a myoclonic jerk, most commonly experienced as the sufferer is drifting to sleep, or while they are asleep. They can be seen in children even when they are awake.

Status epilepticus is a seizure that lasts much longer than normal, sometimes more than 30 minutes. The person faints while the seizure is happening. These are treatable by the use of a medicine called "Diazepam" which is given from a tube into the bowels of the person, through the anus. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency. Whether treated or not, the person must get to a hospital as soon as possible, as their brain could be permanently damaged otherwise.

Certain types of seizures point to a disorder called epilepsy, where the nerves do not work as they should. They carry the wrong messages to the brain so that the person moves uncontrollably or sees, hears, smells, feels, or tastes things that are not there. Medicine can be taken to prevent this from happening.

Seizures also can have other causes:

  • Certain types of head injuries
  • Certain types of drugs, or their withdrawal
  • Certain diseases (some of them diseases of the brain, like encephalitis or meningitis), but also simple fever. Seizures that are caused by fever are called febrile seizures.
  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much alcohol


  1. "Epilepsy". Fact Sheets. World Health Organization. October 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2013.