Motor Seizures

Overview

Motor seizures affect the muscles of the body. This can cause the muscles to go stiff or to weaken temporarily.

A motor seizure is a type of simple partial seizure.

Symptoms

Motor seizures can cause the muscles to tighten. Symptoms of muscle tightening include:

  • Stiff arms
  • Stiff legs
  • Jerking body movements

Motor seizures can also cause temporary muscle weakness. Symptoms of muscle weakness include:

  • Head bobbing
  • Falling to the ground
  • Uncontrolled laughter
  • Difficulty speaking

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of seizures is often unknown.

Seizures can be linked to:

Diagnosis

The most useful way to diagnose the type of seizure is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This records electrical activity in the brain. The EEG can record unusual spikes or waves in electrical activity patterns. Different types of seizures can be identified with these patterns.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to look at the cause and the location within the brain. The scans can show scar tissue, tumors or structural problems in the brain.

Treatment

For many patients, correct treatment can lower or prevent seizures. In some cases, patients may not have any more seizures for the rest of their life.

Treatment is based on:

  • The type of seizure
  • How often seizures happen
  • How severe the seizures are
  • The patient's age
  • The patient's overall health
  • The patient's medical history

Anti-seizure (or anti-epileptic) medications can be very helpful. It may take a few tries to get the right medicine and dose. The doctor will watch for side effects to find the best treatment.

Surgery may be an option if medication can't control the seizures. A vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is sometimes implanted and used with anti-epileptic medication to lower seizures. The VNS is a tool placed under the skin of the chest. It sends electrical energy through the vagus nerve into the neck and up to the brain.

Certain lifestyle changes may also be used:

  • Special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet (ketogenic diet)
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoiding certain triggers, such as flickering lights

The staff at the Cedars-Sinai Epilepsy Program will work with each patient to determine the best treatment option.

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