A convulsion is a medical condition where body muscles contract and relax rapidly and repeatedly, resulting in uncontrolled actions of the body.[1] Because epileptic seizures typically include convulsions, the term convulsion is sometimes used as a synonym for seizure. However, not all epileptic seizures lead to convulsions, and not all convulsions are caused by epileptic seizures. Convulsions are also consistent with an electric shock and improper enriched air scuba diving. For non-epileptic convulsions, see non-epileptic seizures.

Nude woman sitting with artificially induced convulsions
SpecialtyNeurology, Psychiatry

The word "fit" is sometimes used to mean a convulsion or epileptic seizure.[2]

Signs and symptoms

When a person is having a convulsion, they may experience several different symptoms. These may include: a brief blackout, confusion, drooling, loss of bowel/bladder control, sudden shaking of entire body, uncontrollable muscle spasms, temporary cessation of breathing, and many more. Symptoms usually last from a few seconds to around 15 minutes. If someone has a fit like this, it is advised to make sure they don't fall and injure themselves, cushion their head and loosen any restricting clothing/jewelry, and also call for medical help. This should be done whether or not they have fallen, make sure that if they fall you do not 1)try to pin/hold them in place, as this could possibly cause harm or injury to the individual 2)do not cushion their head for this may cause the subject to hurt their neck when undergoing any sort of spasm and 3)do not place any body part in-between the person's teeth during a seizure (including your fingers)to stop the chattering and or clenching of teeth, if wanting to protect the subject from injuring themselves (involving fracturing of the teeth and or chewing on cheeks inner lining causing more pain and bleeding) through the clenching of their teeth, you may place a leather object like a belt or wallet (without any cards in it), between their teeth.[1]

Generalized seizures

The most common type of seizure is called a generalized seizure, also known as a generalized convulsion. This is characterized by a loss of consciousness which may lead to the person collapsing. The body stiffens for about a minute and then jerks uncontrollably for the next minute. During this, the patient may fall and injure themselves or bite their tongue and lose control of their bladder. A familial history of this puts a person at a greater risk for developing them.[3][4]


Convulsions are the result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The specific cause is often not clear. Convulsions can be caused by specific chemicals in the blood, as well as infections like meningitis or encephalitis. A common cause in children is febrile seizures. Other possibilities include celiac disease,[5] head trauma, stroke or lack of oxygen to the brain. Sometimes the convulsion can be caused by genetic defects or brain tumors.[1] Convulsions can also occur when the blood sugar is too low and deficiency of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). In Nigeria, malaria[6] is a very important cause of convulsions among children under 5 years of age.


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