Convulsion – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Convulsion is an abnormal or involuntary contraction of the muscles, which leads to uncontrollable or jerky motions. A convulsion may be associated with some kind of medical condition.

It may affect a specific part of a person’s body or the whole body. A person convulsing appears to be shaking uncontrollably.

Causes of Convulsion

The following are possible causes of convulsion;

1. Febrile Seizures (Fever): This is caused by high fever, and its common in children between 6months-5years. The body temperature of the child can change so rapidly that and you may not be aware of the fever until the convulsion.

2. Reactions to medication: sometimes, convulsion may be caused by drug overdose, drug withdrawal, and alcohol poisoning. It may also occur due to a sudden rise or drop in the chemicals that regulate the electrical brain activity or overstimulate the brain.

3. Epilepsy: Epileptic seizures neurological condition that is characterized by electrical disturbances. People experiencing epileptic seizures may suffer violent jerking, brief jerking, sniffing, head-turning, spasms, and muscle rigidity.

4. Non-Epileptic Seizures: This category belongs to conditions that are not by electrical disturbances in the brain. Some of these may be caused by an infection that causes the brain to swell.

The infections may also release toxins that disrupt the electrical signals in the brain. Other causes of non-epileptic seizures include;

  • Brain trauma
  • Inflammation of the brain (Encephalitis).
  • Tumor in the brain
  • Heatstroke
  • kidney failure
  • Tetanus
  • When blood pressure drops suddenly
  • Rabies

5 Hypoglycemia (low sugar): This is a condition that occurs when the blood sugar (also called glucose), is not enough for the body to perform its normal functions.

This condition is common in people with diabetes who increase insulin levels in their bodies or eat less. Skipping some meals and exercising more than normal can lead to low sugar problem.

Symptoms of Convulsion

The symptoms of convulsion may last a few seconds or several minutes and sometimes longer. Some of the common symptoms of convulsion are listed below;

  1. Loss of consciousness/awareness of the present environment or brief blackout.
  2. Rolling of eyes
  3. Pale face or face appears red
  4. Breathing changes (gagging)
  5. Uncontrolled movements or jerking of some parts of the body such as legs, arms, head, or the whole body.
  6. Loss of bladder control or bowel
  7. Jaw becomes clenched
  8. Drooling
  9. The body may become rigid.
  10. Inability to speak or respond in words.

When Should You Call A Doctor?

A person convulsing may not always require emergency medical assistance or care. But you will need to call for help when you notice the following.

  1. The person has never convulsed before or has never had seizures before
  2. When the convulsion or seizure has lasted more than five minutes.
  3. When the person is having difficulty in breathing
  4. When then the person is having difficulty in walking after the convulsion.
  5. The person starts to convulse shortly after recovering from the first convulsion or seizure.
  6. When the person sustained an injury when convulsing
  7. When the person is pregnant, has diabetes or heart disease.

If it is the case of a child, then you need to call for medicare care when the following occurs

  1. The convulsion lasted for more than ten minutes.
  2. The child is looking very sick after convulsing.
  3. The child was already sick before he/she started to convulse.
  4. The child had a convulsion very often.

Diagnostics

To diagnose the causes of convulsion, the doctor needs to take a medical history of the person and consider other symptoms the person has.

After that, he may conduct a physical examination on the person. The doctor will likely focus on conditions that can cause abnormal brain activities. Some diagnosis include

1. Electroencephalogram (EEG): An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a non-invasive test in which the electrodes attached to the head measure electrical brain activity.

An EEG is done when the doctor suspects a neurologic disorder. Sometimes an EEG may require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight in order to “catch” a convulsive episode when it occurs.

2. Neurological Exam: This is a series of tests carried out to assess mental status, balance, coordination, and reflexes as well as sensory responses. It involves the use of instruments such as penlight or reflex hammer, and these tests are not painful.

A neurological exam can help a doctor to determine if a convulsion occurred due to an issue with the central nervous system.

3. Differential Diagnoses: A Doctor may also exclude neurological linked problems. This is mostly done if it is the first case of convulsion. Examples include;

  • Psychotic episodes
  • Panic attack
  • Myoclonic Jerks(it is a sudden jerk that is not related to disease)

4. Lab Tests: Blood tests may be carried out to check for infections and electrolyte imbalances. If the doctor suspects epilepsy, then a blood test to measure the amount of hormone prolactin in the blood is carried out.

5. Imaging Studies: X-ray and computers can be used to create a series of images showing different parts of the brain. This helps the doctor to ascertain the cause of the convulsion. Other times, MRI of the head is done and computers are used to produce detailed results of the brain.

Things to do When a Person is Convulsing

These are some things you can do when a person is convulsing;

  1. Place the person on the floor so that he/she does not fall to the ground that is to prevent them from getting hurt.
  2. Make sure you place the person on his/her side to enable them to breathe easily.
  3. Remove any sharp object from his/her side
  4. If he/she is wearing tight clothing, loosen the clothing, especially around the neck.
  5. Unless the pediatrician has instructed you on what to do, do not put anything in the person’s mouth.
  6. Do not try to restrict the child’s movements, and if he/she vomits, move him sideways and clean his mouth.

Treatment

The first or initial treatment of convulsion is to stabilize the person even before diagnosing the cause of the convulsion. If it turns out that the convulsion was caused by diabetics, infection, or head injury, then appropriate treatment should be carried out on the person in most cases hospitalization may be required.

If the convulsion was caused by medication, then a change or adjustment of treatment may just be enough to prevent future episodes.

If the convulsion was a result of epileptic seizure then the use of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) such as Tegretol, Topamax, etc. are required.

References;

  • https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-a-convulsion-4144876
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/convulsions#diagnosis
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=88523

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