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Seizure disorders

What is a seizure disorder?

Seizures occur when too many neurons send electrical impulses at the same time, interrupting normal brain function. A patient may be diagnosed with a seizure disorder after two or more unprovoked seizures. There are about 40 different types of seizure disorders. Epilepsy, a chronic disorder of unprovoked seizures, is one of the most prevalent of the neurological conditions. While seizures can be frightening to experience, most seizure disorders can be controlled with medication.  Your team at UTHealth Neurosciences will work hard to resolve your symptoms to help you maintain the highest quality of life.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

Our multidisciplinary team of physicians and specialists uses advanced technology to accurately diagnose and treat the underlying causes of seizures. They share expertise and insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes, as well as lower costs and time savings. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Causes of a seizure disorder

Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing a seizure disorder, including a brain infection, tumor, stroke, or injury. Certain drugs, medications, and toxic substances can also increase the risk. Withdraw from substances may also trigger a seizure, as can stress, alcohol, hormones, and a lack of sleep. Flashing lights or repetitive sounds may cause seizures in some patients. An electrolyte imbalance or low blood sugar may also contribute to a seizure. Meningitis, AIDS, viral encephalitis, and other infections can cause epilepsy.

Seizure types vary by where and how they begin in the brain. They are either focused in one area of the brain, called a focal seizure, or happen on both sides of the brain at once, called a generalized seizure. Focal seizure symptoms may be initially confused with other neurological disorders, such as migraines or narcolepsy.

Signs of a seizure disorder

It can be difficult to tell when a person is having a seizure. While uncontrollable shaking is a well-known symptom, it is more common for a person to stop moving or become unaware of their surroundings. The patient might stare or experience confusion. Other symptoms may include blinking, muscle spasms, or a sudden loss of muscle tone. A person’s head might drop, or they may fall to the ground.

Until a seizure disorder is controlled, a person should avoid driving, swimming, and operating power tools.



A person who experiences a seizure should see their doctor. Seek immediate help if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or if breathing or consciousness doesn’t return immediately. A doctor may conduct brain imaging, order blood tests, and perform an electroencephalography (EEG), in addition to taking your medical history and conducting a physical exam. Intracranial monitoring may also be used to get more details on the seizures.


The neurosurgeons and epileptologists at UTHealth Neurosciences will develop an individualized treatment plan to control your symptoms. Some patients may benefit from antiseizure medications, and in other cases, surgery, responsive neurostimulation therapy, robotic stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG), or MR-guided laser interstitial thermal therapy may be beneficial. These techniques help localize the seizure focus with a minimally invasive procedure. Some patients may need lifelong treatment, but for other people, the seizures may eventually go away. It is possible for children to outgrow epilepsy. We are proud to offer patients access to the Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, the leading program in the southwest U.S. for diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy.

Clinical Trials

When conventional therapies prove unsuccessful, we provide our patients access to leading-edge clinical trials of investigational drugs and procedures.

View trials related to epilepsy and seizures here »