Silent, subtle and unseen: How seizures happen and why they're hard to diagnose

The dramatic and incapacitating nature of seizures is reflected in the word itself, which derives from the Greek “to take hold” – like an invisible force suddenly grasping someone and controlling their body. This sense of an unknown force has driven many superstitions and misrepresentations of seizures throughout history.

Over the past century, the public’s understanding of seizures has been gleaned mostly from depictions in movies and television, which are often as disturbing as they are inaccurate. While these dramatic representations intensify visual storytelling, they frequently perpetuate stigma and understate the complexity of seizures.

The truth is, seizures are far more varied than what you see in popular culture. Instead, they are often subtle, silent and unseen.

As a neurologist who focuses on the comprehensive care of people who experience seizures, I subspecialize in the treatment of those with epilepsy. That includes identifying and improving gaps in epilepsy care. Research shows there are many.

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