12 January 2009

What Actually Happens in the Brain When Someone Has An Epileptic Fit?

Seizures can be provoked not only by epilepsy, a long-lasting disorder, but by more specific events - head injury, drug abuse (particularly of cocaine), and drug or alcohol withdrawal, for instance. They may even be the first sign of a brain tumor, blood clot, or hemorrhage.

In any such instance, during a seizure or fit, nerve cells in at least one area of the brain emit a synchronized burst of electric charges, stimulating adjoining cells. The resulting symptoms depend on where in the brain the abnormal activity originates: Ift it's in the region responsible for sensory processing, the person having the seizure may notice a strange odor, hallucinate, or hear voices. If it occurs in the area controlling muscle movement, the epileptic may suffer violent muscle contractions. If the seizure becomes generalized, involving most of the brain, the patient loses consciousness. In some generalized seizures, the victim falls to the ground with rhythmic jerking of the limbs; in others, called absence seizures, she seems to be awake but loses touch with her surroundings.

Don't panic if you're present when someone has a seizure, but do call for medical assistance immediately. Gently get the person on the ground - preferably lying on her side. Never restrain her limbs or try to force anyting into her mouth or between her teeth.

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