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What Do Seizures Feel Like? Symptoms & Causes

If you have a seizure, you may feel strange, notice unusual smells, experience tingling, see flashing lights, or start hallucinating

Seizures feel different depending on type and severity, ranging from mild staring spells to violent, uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness. If you have a seizure, you may feel strange, notice unusual smells, experience tingling, see flashing lights, or start hallucinating.

After a seizure, you may feel disoriented, exhausted, or in pain, especially if you have lost consciousness.

What are symptoms of a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden change in the brain’s electrical activity that causes involuntary shaking or convulsions. Symptoms vary depending on which area of the brain is affected.

However, it can be difficult to determine whether a person is suffering from a seizure, since some symptoms often go unnoticed. Symptoms may last for seconds to minutes, and rarely last longer than 15 minutes. Some common symptoms include:

  • Twitching and jerking due to uncontrollable muscle spasms
  • Mood swings
  • Behavioral changes
  • Drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • Strange eye movements
  • Snorting and grunting
  • Bladder or bowel control problems
  • Bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Clenched teeth
  • Temporary breathing problems
  • Disorientation

Before the attack, the person may experience warning signs, such as:

  • Anxiety or fear
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Seeing flashing lights, spots, or wavy lines

How are seizures treated?

Your doctor may perform tests to rule out other causes such as stroke. Tests may include blood tests, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging scans of the head, or a spinal tap. 

Treatment varies depending on the cause of the seizure. If there is a reason to believe you may continue to have seizures, your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent them from occurring.

It is important to get sufficient rest and stick to a regular schedule as much as possible. Avoid excessive stress, bright lights, heavy machinery, and driving. Most people who suffer from seizures can have normal lives with proper preventative measures.

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What to do when someone is having a seizure

Most seizures resolve on their own. When someone has a seizure, the priority is to keep them safe:

  • Place the person on the ground in a secure location. 
  • Turn them over to their side.
  • Remove furniture or sharp objects from the vicinity.
  • Put a cushion under the person’s head.
  • Loosen tight clothing, especially around the neck.
  • Check if they are wearing a medical identification bracelet that has seizure instructions.
  • Keep an eye on the person until they recover or paramedics arrive.

Friends and family members should not do the following:

  • Do not hold the person down.
  • Do not put anything between the person’s teeth.
  • Do not try to keep the person’s mouth shut.
  • Do not move the person unless they are in a dangerous area.
  • Do not offer the person anything to eat or drink until the convulsions have ceased, and they are completely awake and attentive.
  • If the seizure has ended and the person is not breathing or has no pulse, do not begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

When to seek emergency medical help

Seek medical assistance for the following:

  • Seizure is the first the person has ever had
  • Seizure lasts more than 2-5 minutes (grand mal seizure)
  • The person does not wake up or behave normally after the seizure
  • Soon after one seizure stops, another one begins
  • Seizure occurs In the water
  • The person is injured, pregnant, or diabetic

All seizures should be reported to the person’s physician. The person’s medications may need to be adjusted or changed.

Medically Reviewed on 2/23/2022

References

Image Source: iStock Images

Ko DY. Epilepsy and Seizures. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1184846-overview

Medline Plus. Seizures. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003200.htm

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