Epileptic Seizures are caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain. This results in a temporary disruption to the normal message being passed between brain calls. The message is either halted or gets mixed-up, so depending where the brain the epileptic activity begins determines how widely and rapidly it is spread.


For this reason there are many types of seizures and each person will experience epilepsy in a way unique to them. Seizures can often be sudden and dramatic, though some epileptic patients may experience a brief warning period (aura) for example a strange feeling, smell or taste.


Epilepsy is due to an underlying cause, which can be categorized into three main groups:


1: Symptomatic Epilepsy:

This is where there is a known cause as a head injury, an infection such as meningitis, a stroke or tumour and sometimes where the brain has not developed properly.


2: Idoepathic Epilepsy:

This is likely due to a genetic tendency that may have been inherited, or resulting from a change that happens in a person's genes before they are born.


3: Cryptogenic Epilepsy

This is where no cause has been despite investigations.


Part of the genetic tendency is called the seizure threshold: we all have a seizure threshold so any one of us has the potential to have a seizure but less so if the threshold is high. This threshold therefore plays a key role in whether someone will develop epilepsy.


Types of Seizures:

Minor Seizure

Some patients experience a mild form of epilepsy, with small seizures during which they appear distant from and unaware of their surroundings. We refer to these seizures as "absences" and patients are unlikely to have any convulsive movements.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Sudden switching off.
  • Patient may stare blankly.
  • Slight occasional twitching or jerking of the lips, eyelids, head or limbs.
  • Bizarre "automatic" movements, such as lip-smacking, chewing or making noises.



  • Remove sources of danger.
  • Help guide and reassure patient.
  • Stay with them until fully alert.
  • If this has not happened to them before advise to see their GP.


Major Seizure

This type of seizure can happen suddenly as a result from major disturbances within the brain. This may cause the patient to fit aggressively involving the whole body


Signs & symptoms:

  • Aura: Patient may recognise they are about to have a seizure.
  • Tonic phase: Muscles become suddenly rigid.
  • Clonic Phase: Limbs start to make sudden, jerking, violent movements.
  • Recovery Phase: The patient's body begins to relax although patient is not fully responsive.
  • After the siezure the patient may fell tired and fall asleep.



  • Move any dangerous objects away from the patient.
  • Assist patient to floor.
  • If there are any concerns about patient's airway, place them in the recovery position.
  • Record start time of seizure.
  • Call 999 if seizure last more than 3 minutes.
  • Call 999 if it is the patient's first fit.



  • Never place anything in the patient's mouth.
  • Never try and restrain the patient.
  • Never try and move patient unless in extreme danger.



We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in our blog. One of our more popular articles is about quality or quantity when it comes to first aid training.


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