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Q: What causes seizures?

Posted March 20, 2013 in Advice Column, Winterset

A: Seizures occur because the brain becomes irritated and an “electrical storm” occurs. This “electrical storm” occurs because the normal connections between the cells in the brain do not function properly. This causes the brain to try to shut down because of the electrical surge. The muscle shaking occurs because the brain is ending out signals to every muscle group, asking them to contract. Most seizures are self-limiting and are followed by a so-called postictal period, in which the brain can be considered to “reboot and restart” all its programs, similar to a computer when it is rebooted.

Generalized seizures are frightening to witness. There is loss of consciousness; the body stiffens, arches and may shake, and grunting sounds may be heard. But most seizures stop themselves and the role of the Good Samaritan, bystander, friend or family is to protect the individual from himself or herself.

Steps to take if you witness an individual having a seizure include:
• The first step is to take a deep breath and try to stay calm.
• Make certain that there is nothing nearby that can be struck by the person having the seizure.
• Don’t hold the person down. A seizure is a violent and forceful event, and bystander injury is a possibility.
• Do not put anything in the victim’s mouth. A person who is seizing can’t swallow his or her tongue and usually is breathing adequately. Forcing open the jaw can break teeth or get fingers bitten. If the individual’s seizure lasts more than three to five minutes, call 911 immediately.
• After the seizure stops, lay the person on his or her side and stay with the person until he or she is awake or until medical assistance arrives.

Information from Medicinet, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.

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