What is the Difference Between Fainting & a Seizure?

On the surface, it would seem that seizures and fainting may be similar, in that they both involve some sort of interruption of normal consciousness. They are very different things, however, which have little to do with each other.


Fainting describes a temporary loss of consciousness, usually only lasting a few minutes or less. A seizure is a physical manifestation of abnormal electrical brain activity, and can last from seconds to a full minute.


The most common causes of fainting include a quick drop in blood pressure, low blood sugar and emotional distress. Seizures can occur due to medical conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumours or dementia, or from temporary issues such as a high fever or exposure to drugs.


Fainting results in a complete loss of consciousness, muscle tone and skin pallor. Seizures have a much wider variety of symptoms, depending on the area of the brain affected. Symptoms will appear suddenly, and include twitching or tightening of the muscles, changes in vision and experiencing a bitter taste in your mouth.

Calling For Medical Help

A person usually recovers fully and quickly from a faint, so it's generally only necessary to contact medical help if she has been injured or has another medical condition such as pregnancy or diabetes. Seizures are more serious because they result from abnormal brain activity, so call your doctor if it is your first or an unusually long one.

Home Care

A history of fainting may point to another medical condition, so follow any instructions your doctor may recommend, such as avoiding situations in which fainting has regularly occurred. Seizures usually stop by themselves, but it's important to keep the patient from injuring himself during the seizure.

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