Epilepsy & Seizures

A seizure happens when there’s a sudden burst of activity in your brain. It’s like a temporary short-circuit of your brain’s electrical system. Epilepsy, which is often referred to as a seizure disorder, is a neurological condition that causes unprovoked and recurrent seizures. However, not all seizures are associated with epilepsy.


Symptoms & Causes

Some people have normal brain wiring and still have seizures. These seizures can be caused by an infection in the brain, low blood sugar, extremely high blood pressure or low salt levels in the blood. These types of seizures are called provoked seizures.

Others have abnormal brain wiring that can cause seizures - even though they are otherwise healthy. These types of seizures are called unprovoked seizures and they are common in people with epilepsy.

Common risk factors for epilepsy include:

  • Age: onset of the condition generally occurs during early childhood
  • Head injury
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Brain infections
  • Family history

Seizures can be divided into two main categories: generalized-onset or partial-onset.

Generalized-onset seizures start from the entire brain all at once. Generalized seizure warning signs and symptoms can include:

  • Whole-body convulsions
  • Whole-body jerks
  • Staring spells

Common types of generalized seizures include:

  • Absence seizures, previously known as petit mal seizures, often occur in children. They are characterized by staring into space or subtle body movements like eye blinking or lip smacking. These seizures may occur in clusters and cause a brief loss of awareness.
  • Tonic seizures cause a stiffening of the muscles in your back, arms and legs, and may cause you to fall to the ground.
  • Atonic seizures, or drop seizures, cause a loss of muscle control and may cause you to suddenly collapse or fall down.
  • Clonic seizures are associated with repeated or rhythmic jerking muscle movements, and usually affect the neck, face and arms.
  • Myoclonic seizures usually appear as sudden, brief jerks and twitches of your arms and legs.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures, previously known as grand mal seizures, are the most dramatic type of epileptic seizure and can cause body stiffening, shaking and a sudden loss of consciousness.

Partial seizures, or focal seizures, start from one small part of the brain, and may or may not spread to the entire brain. Partial-onset seizure symptoms can include:

  • Shaking/stiffening of one side of the body
  • Confusion, inability to speak
  • Staring spells
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Tongue biting, drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Uncontrollable screaming


Seizures can be dangerous and life-threatening. At Aurora, seizure diagnosis begins with a detailed discussion of your symptoms, a comprehensive neurologic examination and diagnostic testing.

Basic testing includes an EEG or brainwave test to see if we can capture a seizure or see footprints of seizure activity. We may also get an MRI of your brain to see if there is an abnormality or malformation that can cause seizures.

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Treatment Options

Aurora’s expert neurologists can help you manage these debilitating occurrences – regardless of their source – so you can lead an independent, productive life. We’ll start by determining whether you have generalized-onset or partial-onset seizures, and then develop a seizure treatment or epilepsy treatment plan that’s right for you.

Epilepsy treatment options might include:

  • Anti-seizure medications - These medications can help control, reduce or eliminate your seizures.
  • Surgery - If your seizures are not controlled by two or more seizure medications, the following types of surgery may be an option:
    • Lesionectomy: If the brain MRI shows an abnormality and we can confirm that your seizures are coming from the area of the abnormality.
    • Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) - A VNS device can be implanted to stimulate a particular nerve in order to stop seizures.
  • A special diet to reduce epileptic symptoms and seizures, such as the ketogenic diet.


If you are experiencing seizures and think you may be suffering from epilepsy, the neurological team at Aurora Health Care is here to help. Our neurologists practice throughout eastern Wisconsin, with convenient locations in:

Fond du Lac
Menomonee Falls

Green Bay
St. Francis
West Allis

Book an appointment with an epilepsy treatment specialist near you.

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