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Seizure Disorder—Adult

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Seizure Disorder—Adult



A seizure is sudden and abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure disorder is when a person has two or more seizures that are not due to illness or another trigger. This is also known as epilepsy.

Seizures are classified into two groups:

  • Generalized seizure disorder—affects both sides of the brain
  • Partial seizure disorder (focal seizure)—affects only one part of the brain
Brain Cells (Neurons).

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=28042804AX00008.jpgNeuronsNULLjpgNeuronsNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\AX00008.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.44NULL2002-10-012682002804_11874Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Seizures happen because of abnormal brain activity. For many people, it is not known why this happens. Some known causes are:

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this disorder are:


Symptoms depend on the type of seizures that a person has.

Generalized seizures may cause:

  • Eye blinking or staring into space
  • Crying out
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Falling to the ground
  • Muscle jerking or spasms
  • Feelings of tiredness after the seizure has ended

Partial seizures may cause:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Sensing a strange taste or smell
  • Confusion or a dazed feeling
  • Inability to respond to questions or directions


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. An appointment with a doctor who treats the nervous system and brain may be needed.

Brain activity may be tested. This can be done with an electroencephalogram (EEG). Images of the brain may be taken with:


The goals of treatment are stop seizures from happening. This may mean treating an underlying cause or avoiding triggers.


Most seizure disorders cannot be prevented.


Anti-seizure medicines may be given. More than one may be needed. It may take some time to find the right medicine and dose.





  • Antiseizure medications for seizure disorders in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/antiseizure-medications-for-seizure-disorders-in-adults.
  • Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-adults.
  • Geller, E.B., Skarpaas, T.L., et al. Brain-responsive neurostimulation in patients with medically intractable mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsia, 2017; 58(6): 994-1004.
  • Serafini, A., Lukas, R.V., et al. Paraneoplastic epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav, 2016; 61: 51-58.
  • Thijs, R.D., Surges, R., et al. Epilepsy in adults. Lancet, 2019 16; 393 (10172): 689-701.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.