What are the early signs of a seizure disorder?

Updated 02/05/2023

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. The electrical disturbance disrupts the normal function of the brain. As a result, it changes someone’s behaviour, movements, feelings, and can result in altered levels of consciousness. A seizure disorder includes a condition called epilepsy. Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder where brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behaviour, abnormal sensations, as well as loss of awareness in some cases. Having more than two seizures within 24 hours, which are not caused by something identifiable, is normally considered epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder.

Here is everything you need to know about seizure disorder.

A man sitting down crouched over, resting his head on his hand. He may be having a headache or experiencing symptoms of a seizure. He is sitting in front of a window.

Seizure versus fainting

Seizures and fainting are two different conditions can be easily confused because they share some similar symptoms. Fainting, also known as syncope, occurs when there is a temporary loss of consciousness due to a lack of oxygenated blood to the brain. On the other hand, seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause a wide range of symptoms.

What are the warning signs of a seizure?

Seizures can be a dangerous medical condition, especially if it’s not identified early. While there is a variety of behaviours during different types of seizures, not all behavioural changes are as a result of seizures.

Here are some of the warning signs of a seizure to look out for:

Prodrome stage

This stage may kick in between 10 minutes to several days before a seizure physically manifests.

Common symptoms of the prodrome stage include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • A general feeling of unwellness

Aura stage

Auras are an advanced sign of an impending seizure or part of a seizure itself. An aura is also referred to as a focal aware seizure, or simple focal or partial seizure. They take place in one part of the brain and then start spreading to other parts of the brain depending on the development of the seizure disorder. You may not lose consciousness with simple focal seizures, and you may experience repeated and similar symptoms every time.

Symptoms of aura include the following:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Great confusion
  • Nausea or headache
  • A feeling of déjà vu — a feeling of having already experienced the present situation even though you haven’t experienced it before
  • Sudden strong emotional changes like joy, sadness, fear, or anger
  • Muscle twitches or jerking movements on one side of the body
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Sudden acidic, bitter, salty, sweet, or metallic tastes
  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

What should you do if you’re having seizures?

In the event of a seizure, you should follow the person’s seizure response plan if the doctor has issued one. If they don’t have a response plan, you can conduct first aid. First aid is intended to keep the person safe until the seizure ceases by itself. When you see someone having a seizure, do the following in order to keep them safe:

  • Time the seizure – the seizure period will guide you on whether to call an ambulance or not.
  • Cushion their head – Sometimes, the victim will unconsciously fall and move uncontrollably. This makes it important to cushion their heads from hard objects. Further head injury may worsen the condition.
  • Roll them into a recovery position – Roll them back onto their side to prevent choking in case they have something in their mouths.
  • Stay with them until the seizure stops – you should never leave someone alone when they are under a seizure. While sometimes the situation might be scary, always stay close to them and make sure they are safe.

When to call an ambulance

If you are looking after someone during a seizure, you should seek immediate medical attention if you observe the following:

  • The seizure lasts more than five minutes
  • Consciousness is still lost after the seizure has stopped
  • There are immediate and repeated seizures
  • The seizure occurred in water
  • If they are pregnant
  • They have suffered an injury as a result of the seizure
  • They have a high fever
  • They have a diabetes condition as well
  • You are in doubt

Download our “When to call 911” guide to display around your office or home.

What NOT to do when someone has a seizure

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in society about what people should do when someone is having a seizure. Some of these misconceptions are wrong, dangerous, and may put the patient into further problems.

Here are some of the things that should not be done when someone is having a seizure:

  • Do not put anything in their mouth
  • Do not move them if they are not in danger of hitting objects
  • Do not over restrain them because you may cause unnecessary injury
  • Do not be worried if they are unconscious after the seizure or display aggressive or confused behaviours

Download the “Seizure First Aid” poster.

Doctor with patient in medical office

What are seizure triggers?

Seizure triggers are factors that can increase the likelihood of a person with epilepsy having a seizure.

Common seizure triggers include:

  • Fatigue or lack of sleep
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Missing medication
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar
  • Specific foods or excess caffeine
  • Flashing or flickering lights

To manage triggers, people with epilepsy can take the following steps:

  • Take medication as prescribed
  • Get enough sleep and maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Keep a seizure diary to identify triggers and patterns of seizure activity

Why is it important to diagnose seizures early?

Diagnosing a seizure disorder early is important to ensure that events are treated as early as possible. Finding the right medication can sometimes involve trial and error, which makes the treatment journey longer. Having undiagnosed events can make it difficult for people suffering from seizures to manage their events and live a normal life. 

Essentially, ignoring seizure symptoms can be a real-life threat. For instance, think about someone who could experience a seizure when driving. This situation can lead to an accident and even result in death. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the faster an effective treatment can be found.

Get in touch

At Seer Medical, we provide long-term brain and heart monitoring for faster paths to diagnosis and better healthcare management outcomes for the patient involved. We believe in a new approach to healthcare that combines the best of devices, cloud computing, and computer science to enable the transition of clinical monitoring from the hospital to the home environment. We can help you get an accurate, effective, and clear diagnosis of a seizure disorder much sooner by avoiding long hospital waiting lists.

Contact us to learn more and get the help you need today.


Click below to download.

Download when to call 911 resource

Download seizure first aid poster