Seizures can occur in anyone as a result of an injury to the brain or a more long-lasting condition involving the brain.

Since the human brain's functions depend upon electrical and chemical activity, excessive electrical discharges can prove disruptive and an epileptic seizure can result. Should you see someone during a seizure, note what the person does. Things you observe can help a physician diagnose the type of seizure the person has experienced.Physicians use the term "epilepsy" when a person suffers from repeated seizures.

Types of seizures:

Seizures come in two types: partial and generalized. Partial seizures arise from a specific area of the brain. During a simple partial seizure, no loss of consciousness is experienced.

Generalized seizures involving widespread areas of the brain include petit mal and grand mal seizures.

Petit mal seizures most commonly occur in children. They are brief episodes (3-10 seconds) during which the child loses awareness of what is going on around him or her. During the seizure, the child may have a blank stare and may blink the eyes or twitch the face or arms. They may appear to be "daydreaming."

In grand mal seizures, the person loses consciousness and the body stiffens, followed by jerking movements. A grand mal seizure typically lasts 30 to 90 seconds.

First aid:

If you see someone having a grand mal seizure:

-Protect the victim from nearby hazards.

-Loosen any tie or shirt

-Place some form of padding under the victim's head.

-Turn the victim on his or her side to prevent the tongue from blocking the airway.

-Call the emergency medical services (EMC) if a single seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, seizures occur one after another, of if the victim is pregnant or injured.

-Do not put anything in the victim's mouth or between the teeth.

-Never attempt to hold the victim's tongue (it cannot be swallowed).

-Do not give liquids during or after a seizure.

-If breathing stops, attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation only when the jerking movement stops.

-Do not restrain the victim.

For known seizure victims, calling a family member or close friend and not an ambulance is all that is necessary. If it is the person's first seizure, suggest he or she seek medical attention.

Most people who suffer from epilepsy can expect control of their seizures with appropriate treatment.

For more information, contact: Epilepsy Foundation of America, Suite 406, 4351 Garden City Drive, Landover, MD 20785. The toll-free number is: 1-800-EFA (322)-1000.

(SB) Alton Thygerson is a professor of health sciences at Brigham Young University.