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Classification and external resources
Specialty Neurology
ICD-10 R56
ICD-9-CM 125.7
MeSH D012640

A convulsion is a medical condition where body muscles contract and relax rapidly and repeatedly, resulting in an uncontrolled shaking of the body.[1] Because a convulsion is often a symptom of an epileptic seizure, 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.

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


Nude woman sitting with artificially induced convulsions, photographed by Eadweard Muybridge

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.[1] Do not try to pin/hold them in place, as you will only injuring them if you do this[citation needed]


Convulsions are often caused by some sort of electrical activity mishap in the brain. Oftentimes, the cause is not able to be pinpointed. Convulsions can be caused by chemicals in the blood, as well as infections like meningitis or encephalitis. A very common cause of convulsions is fevers. Other possibilities include head trauma, stroke or lack of oxygen to the brain. Sometimes the convulsion can be caused by genetic defects or brain tumors.[1]

Generalized seizures[edit]

Main article: Tonic-clonic 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]