Seizures - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Seizures, which are the result of abnormal electrical discharges in an injured or scarred area of the brain, are fairly uncommon among people with MS. Their incidence has been estimated at 2-5 percent, compared to the estimated 3 percent incidence of seizures in the general population. Seizures may take several forms:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are brief episodes of unconsciousness with uncontrollable jerking movements of the extremities.
  • Generalized absence seizures are momentary lapses of consciousness without abnormal movements.
  • Partial complex seizures are periods of stereotyped repetitive activity. The person appears to be awake but does not respond to external stimuli.

Paroxysmal symptoms of MS

Paroxysmal symptoms in MS are brief sudden attacks of abnormal posturing of the extremities, loss of tone in the legs ("drop attacks") or other manifestations that may appear similar to an epileptic seizure but are of different origin. Examples of paroxysmal symptoms include:

  • paroxysmal pain (e.g., trigeminal neuralgia);
  • tonic spasms of an arm or leg;
  • Lhermitte's sign (electric shock-like sensation down the spine when the neck is flexed);
  • Uhthoff's symptoms (transient blurring of vision associate with exertion and elevated body temperature).

Treating seizures

Seizures are usually diagnosed by the clinical history and an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a recording of electrical activity in the brain. Most seizure disorders can be well controlled by use of the appropriate anticonvulsant medication, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol®) or phenytoin (Dilantin®), and continuing medical supervision.


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