About Physiatry

Seizures and Epilepsy

Condition: A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy is when there are repeated seizures.

Background: There are many different types of seizures. Some affect the whole brain (generalized) but others only affect a part of the brain (partial or focal). About 5% of people have a seizure at some time in their life, but only about 1 in every 200 people has epilepsy. 

Risk Factors: Seizures can be caused by many things such as brain injuries, diseases, high fevers, and drug reactions. Triggers may include flickering lights or lack of sleep. Children and older adults are most likely to have seizures.  Seizures are more common in men than women.

History and Symptoms: The doctor may ask questions about the seizure event, including what may have occurred before, during and after the seizure.  Other questions may include a review of medications, drug or alcohol use or a personal or family history of seizures or other diseases.  The doctor may try to determine if the seizure was a generalized or partial seizure.  With a generalized seizure, a person may suddenly lose consciousness and his muscles may stiffen, jerk and twitch, then fall into a deep sleep. With partial seizures, the person may stare into space, show unusual behaviors, or lose awareness of what is going on.       

Physical Exam: The doctor will try to find out what caused the seizure by looking for signs of infection or other diseases. Tests of eye movements, thinking, memory and speech may help show if certain parts of the brain are affected.        

Diagnostic Process: Tests may be performed to help determine the presence and cause of seizures.  An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to measure electrical activity in different parts of the brain through electrodes attached to the scalp.  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies provides detailed pictures of the brain that may help to reveal the cause of seizures. Blood tests and tests of the spinal fluid may also help in finding the cause of seizures.

Rehab Management: Medications are used to prevent seizures in people with epilepsy. Other treatments may be needed to address any changes in thinking, mood, behavior, mobility, and speech. 

Other Resources for Patients and Families:  Counseling and education can help patients, friends, and family cope with lifestyle changes that may be needed.   

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