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A seizure involves abnormal electrical activity in the brain affecting both the mind and the body. Many problems can cause you to have a seizure. These include high fever, brain infections, abnormal sodium or blood sugar levels, or head injuries. If you have epilepsy, you may have seizures repeatedly.
A seizure that lasts at least 30 minutes is called status epilepticus, or a prolonged seizure. This is a medical emergency that may lead to permanent brain damage or death. Many medical experts become concerned that a seizure is status epilepticus after it lasts 5 to 10 minutes.
Status epilepticus is very rare, most people with epilepsy will never have it. This condition is more common in young children and elderly adults.
This condition can occur as:
In children, the main cause of status epilepticus is an infection with a fever. In adults, the common causes include:
There are many risk factors for status epilepticus including:
These are possible symptoms of status epilepticus:
Your health care provider will do a thorough physical exam and ask about your health history, any medications you are taking and if you’ve been using alcohol or other recreational drugs.
Your health care provider may also order an electroencephalogram. This involves placing painless electrodes onto your scalp to measure the brain's electrical activity.
You may need other tests to search for possible causes. These include a lumbar puncture -- or spinal tap -- to look for signs of infection. A CT scan or MRI may be needed to see problems in the brain.
The health care provider will want to end the seizure as quickly as possible and treat any underlying problems that are causing it. You may receive oxygen, have blood tests, and an intravenous (IV) line. You may be given glucose (sugar) if low blood sugar may be causing the seizure.
Health care providers may use anti-seizure drugs to treat the problem, including:
These drugs are given through an IV or an injection into a muscle.
Complications depend on the underlying cause and can range from none to death. If the underlying cause, such as poor epilepsy control, can be fixed, there may no complications. If the underlying cause is a stroke or brain injury, complications may include physical disability from the cause or even death.
If you have epilepsy, taking your medications as directed may help you avoid status epilepticus. If you’ve had status epilepticus, you may need to begin taking seizure medicines or change medications you’re already taking. Avoiding other causes of this condition, such as alcohol abuse or low blood sugar, may also help prevent it.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.