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Difference Between Seizure and Unconsciousness

Some individuals who are going through seizures may pass out; this co-occurrence may make the difference between seizure and unconsciousness a bit blurry. Seizures, also known as convulsions, are rapid and unrestricted brain electrical disturbances. On the other hand, being unconscious pertains to a state of loss of awareness such as when in a deep sleep or a coma. The following discussions will delve into the comparison of unconsciousness and seizures. 

What is a Seizure? 

A seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain which is uncontrolled and sudden. Such interruption can lead to alterations in one’s consciousness levels, feelings, and actions. The common symptoms include staring, uncontrollable jerking movements of the extremities, confusion, anxiety, and a feeling of déjà vu. The causes of seizure include epilepsy, fever, low blood sugar level, brain damage, congenital problems, drug withdrawal, brain infection, or parasitic infections.  Most episodes last from 30 seconds to two minutes; those which last for more than five minutes are medical emergencies. The first aid is to position the individual on his side as soon as possible, not restrain the person, loosen anything on his neck, clear the area around, and call 911 if it lasts for more than five minutes. 

Seizures are commonly classified according to where and how brain activity begins: 

  • Focal Seizures

The electrical disturbance in focal seizures is located in one area of the brain. These may or may not involve loss of consciousness. 

Focal Seizures with Impaired Awareness

Those who experience focal seizures with impaired awareness may stare blankly, not respond to external stimuli, or manifest repetitive movements such as walking in circles, chewing, or hand rubbing. 

Focal Seizures without Loss of Consciousness

On the other hand, those who go through focal seizures without loss of consciousness experience hallucinations but are still conscious. 

  • Generalized Seizures 

The electrical disturbance in generalized seizures involve all areas of the brain. It has different types. 

Absence Seizure (previously called petit mal seizures)

The symptoms include staring into space, brief loss of consciousness, and subtle body movements like lip smacking and blinking. 

Tonic Seizure 

The general symptom is the stiffening of the back, arm, and leg muscles which may lead to falls. 

Atonic Seizure (also called drop seizure)

This is due to a loss of muscle control which may lead to sudden collapses. 

Clonic Seizure

Its hallmark is the jerking of the neck, face, and arm muscles. 

Myoclonic Seizure

It is characterized by twitches of the arms and legs. 

Tonic-Clonic Seizure (previously called grand mal seizure)

It is the most dramatic as it can lead to a sudden loss of consciousness, shaking, stiffening, biting of tongue, and loss of bladder control. 

What is Unconsciousness? 

Biologically, an individual is unconscious if he has lost awareness and is unresponsive to external stimuli like pressure and loud sounds. He appears to be asleep such as when someone fainted, is in a coma, and is sedated. Some of the signs which may indicate that a person is about to be unconscious include dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, faint pulse rate, and slurred speech.  People may be in this state for seconds, such as during a seizure, or for months, as being in a coma.  

The common causes of being temporarily unconscious include blood loss, trauma to the head or chest, drug overdose, seizure, low blood sugar level, low blood pressure, lack of blood flow to the brain, stroke, and dehydration.  The first aid for someone who becomes unconscious is to first check for breathing; if the person is not breathing, call 911 and perform CPR. If he is breathing, position him on his back and raise his legs at least a foot above the floor. Loosen his clothing and check if there is any obstruction to his airway. If he is still unconscious after a minute, call 911. 

Difference between Seizure and being Unconsciousness

Definition 

Seizures, also known as convulsions, are rapid and unrestricted brain electrical disturbances. On the other hand, being unconscious pertains to a state of loss of awareness such as when in a deep sleep or a coma.

Cause 

The causes of seizures include epilepsy, fever, low blood sugar level, brain damage, congenital problems, drug withdrawal, brain infection, or parasitic infections. As for being unconscious, they include general anesthesia, blood loss, trauma to the head or chest, drug overdose, seizure, low blood sugar level, low blood pressure, lack of blood flow to the brain, stroke, and dehydration.

Types

Seizures have established types such as focal and generalized; however, unconsciousness does not have an exact typology. 

Duration 

Seizures usually last from 30 seconds to two minutes while unconsciousness may last for a few seconds or many months. 

First Aid 

The first aid for seizures is to position the individual on his side as soon as possible, not restrain the person, loosen anything on his neck, clear the area around, and call 911 if it lasts for more than five minutes. In comparison, the first aid for someone who becomes unconscious is to first check for breathing; if he is, position him on his back and raise his legs at least a foot above the floor. Loosen his clothing and check if there is any obstruction to his airway. If he is still unconscious after a minute, call 911. If the person is not breathing, call 911 and perform CPR.

Seizure vs Unconsciousness

Summary 

  • Seizure refers to the rapid and unrestricted brain electrical disturbances while unconsciousness is the loss of awareness which may occur because of seizures. 
  • Unlike seizures, unconsciousness has no specific typology. 
  • Unconsciousness often lasts longer than seizures. 
  • The seizure patient is laid on his side while the unconscious patient is laid on his back. 


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References :


[0]Image credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/02/04/04/41/epilepsy-623346_960_720.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://media.defense.gov/2014/Mar/17/2000867951/780/780/0/140313-F-LO037-009.JPG

[2]Blahd, William. “Seizures”. Peace Health. June 26, 2019. https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/seize (accessed March 3, 2020).

[3]Spencer, David. Navigating life with epilepsy. England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017. Print.

[4]Stephens, Carissa. “First Aid for Unconsciousness”. Healthline. December 20, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/unconsciousness-first-aid (accessed March 3, 2020).

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