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Contact the Epilepsy Program

What is a Seizure? 

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause changes in awareness, behavior, movements, feelings, and levels of consciousness.

What are Common Symptoms of a Seizure? 

Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe and may vary depending on the type of seizure.

Seizure signs and symptoms may include:

  • Temporary confusion
  • Staring spells
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • Cognitive or emotional symptoms, such as fear, anxiety or déjà vu

Types of Seizures 

Seizures are commonly classified as either focal or generalized, based on how and where abnormal brain activity begins. Seizures may also be classified as unknown onset, if how the seizure began isn't known.

Types of Seizure Syndromes 

Seizure syndromes are classified as a cluster of features which includes the age when seizures begin, the seizure types, and EEG findings, along with other features. See the Epilepsy Foundation website for additional information about seizure syndromes.

Seizure First Aid and Safety 

    • Do not forcibly hold a person down.
    • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth.
    • Make sure their breathing is normal.
    • Do not give the person anything to eat, drink, or swallow unless they are fully aware and conscious
    • Always stay with the person until the seizure is over.
    • Note the time of the seizure from beginning to end.
    • Keep additional people (onlookers) to a minimum.
    • Stay calm, talk calm and reassuringly to the person having the seizure and those around you.
    • Make the person as comfortable as possible.
    • Be sensitive and supportive and ask others to do the same.
    • Call for emergency medical help when:
      • A seizure lasts five minutes or longer.
      • One seizure occurs right after another without the person regaining consciousness or coming to between seizures.
      • Seizures occur closer together than usual for that person.
      • Breathing becomes difficult or the person appears to be choking.
      • The seizure occurs in water.
      • Injury may have occurred.
      • The person asks for medical help.


For additional information about epilepsy and seizures, visit