The key difference between fainting and seizure is that fainting occurs due to an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to the brain, while seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Fainting and seizures are common conditions related to the brain. Fainting is clinically known as syncope, and it occurs when the amount of blood supply to the brain drops rapidly. Seizures are known as convulsions and are caused due to changes in body movements or behavior. They mainly happen due to imbalances of electrical signals in the brain. When a person has muscle jerks following a loss of unconsciousness, it is often called convulsive syncope. Both fainting and seizures are spontaneous and show complete recovery in most cases.
What is Fainting?
Fainting, also known as syncope or passing out, is the loss of consciousness temporarily. Fainting is usually caused by a rapid decrease in the flow of blood to the brain. Such episodes last for a short period of time, such as a few seconds or minutes. It is not considered a serious health problem; however, frequent fainting can lead to serious cases.
The most common cause of fainting is the reduction of blood flow to the brain, which causes a disruption in the oxygen flow. Common types of fainting include cardiac syncope, carotid sinus syncope, situational syncope, and vasovagal syncope. Cardiac syncope involves fainting due to heart problems. This affects the rate of oxygenated blood pumped to the brain. Carotid sinus syncope occurs due to the constriction of the carotid artery in the neck. Situational syncope is caused due to certain body movements or functions, causing a drop in blood pressure naturally. A few examples of such instances are excess urination, coughing, vomiting, and stretching. Vasovagal syncope is due to experiencing stressful events, for example, severe bleeding sights, stress, physical or emotional trauma, and pain. These events stimulate a reflex called vasovagal reactions, causing the heart to pump blood at a slower rate. Other causes of fainting are fever, diarrhea, dehydration, neurologic conditions, rapid drop in blood pressure, skipping meals, hyperventilating, and heavy exercises.
What is Seizure?
A seizure is a physical change in behavior that takes place after an episode of abnormal electrical impulse activity in the brain. During a seizure, a person shows uncontrollable shaking that is rhythmic and rapid with contraction and relaxation of muscles repeatedly. There are two different types of seizures. They are generalized and partial. During a generalized seizure, the brain experiences an abnormal electrical impulse activity on both sides of the brain. Partial seizures take place when an abnormal electrical impulse activity occurs on one side of the brain.
Seizures take place due to many reasons such as high blood sugar levels in the blood, brain injuries due to strokes or head injury, brain tumors, congenital brain problems, disorders such as dementia, high fever, infections, and illnesses that influence the brain. Some people with seizures have uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness, while some don’t. Some may have flashing light effects and hallucinations.
Seizures are diagnosed with MRI scans of the head and spinal tap, blood tests, and CT scans. The most common symptoms of seizures are drooling or frothing in the mouth, eye movements, snorting, loss of bowel and bladder movements, sudden mood changes, sudden falling, shaking, teeth clenching, and uncontrollable muscle spasms. Warning signs of seizures include fear or anxiety, nausea, vertigo, and visual symptoms.
What are the Similarities Between Fainting and Seizure?
- Fainting and seizures show a sudden loss of consciousness.
- Both are associated with the brain.
- Eyelids flicker during both conditions.
- Both are spontaneous.
What is the Difference Between Fainting and Seizure?
Fainting occurs due to an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to the brain, whereas seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Thus, this is the key difference between fainting and seizure. Fainting lasts for a few seconds or minutes and has a rapid recovery. A seizure lasts for longer periods and has a slow recovery. Moreover, eyes show vertical deviations with flickering eyelids during a faint, but during seizures, the eyes show horizontal deviation with flickering eyelids and a blank stare.
The below infographic presents the differences between fainting and seizure in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Fainting vs Seizure
Fainting and seizures are common conditions related to the brain. Fainting occurs due to an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to the brain. A seizure occurs mainly due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Fainting lasts for a few seconds or minutes and therefore has a rapid recovery rate. Seizures, on the other hand, have a slow recovery rate. So, this summarizes the difference between fainting and seizure.
1. “Seizure” By Pacific Northwest Agricultual Safety and Health Center (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via Flickr