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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epilepsy - When To Call a Doctor

Seizures do not always require urgent care. But call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:

  • The person having a seizure stops breathing for longer than 30 seconds. After calling 911 or other emergency services, begin rescue breathing. For more information, see the topic Dealing With Emergencies.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes. (The person may have entered a life-threatening state of prolonged seizure called status epilepticus.)
  • More than one seizure occurs within 24 hours.
  • The person having a seizure does not respond normally within 1 hour after the seizure or has any of the following symptoms:
    • Reduced awareness and wakefulness or is not fully awake
    • Confusion
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Inability to walk or stand
    • Fever
  • A seizure occurs after the person complains of a sudden, severe headache.
  • A seizure occurs with signs of a stroke, such as trouble speaking or understanding speech, loss of vision, and inability to move part or all of one side of the body.
  • A seizure follows a head injury.
  • A pregnant woman or a woman who has recently had a baby has a seizure. This could be a sign of preeclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy).
  • A person with diabetes has a seizure. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or very high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can cause seizures in a person who has diabetes.
  • A seizure occurs after eating poison or breathing fumes.

If you have a seizure for the first time or you witness someone having a seizure, call a doctor immediately. For more information, see the topic Seizures.

Recommended Related to Epilepsy

Understanding Absence Seizures -- Diagnosis and Treatment

If a seizure condition such as absence seizures is suspected, the doctor will begin by taking a thorough medical history, including information on any birth trauma, serious head injury, or infections of the brain such as encephalitis or meningitis. Brain function can be "viewed" with an electroencephalograph, or EEG, which detects the electrochemical relay of information from brain cell to brain cell. EEGs will show characteristic, abnormal patterns during different types of seizures, including...

Read the Understanding Absence Seizures -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

If you have been diagnosed with epilepsy, call your doctor if:

  • Your seizures become more frequent or more severe.
  • A serious illness seems to be changing the normal pattern, frequency, length, or other features of your seizures.
  • The normal pattern or features of your seizures change. For example, you have never lost consciousness during a seizure before, but now you do. Or you have never fallen down during a seizure, but now this is happening.
  • You are taking antiepileptic medicine and the side effects seem more severe than expected. When you begin taking a medicine, talk to your doctor about what side effects you can expect and what problems might mean that your medicine levels are too high (drug toxicity). You may start having seizures more often if your medicine levels are too low.
  • You are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.
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