Strangely, almost any condition that can cause coma or persistent unconsciousness can also cause convulsions. No single mechanism is known that is responsible for all kinds of convulsions. Changes in the supply of oxygen reaching the brain, in the relationship between acid and alkali-called the acid-base-balance; changes in the amount of calcium, sugar or chlorides in the blood; disturbance of the fluid balance or equilibrium between salt and water in the body and associated changes in the pressure on the brain have all been related to convulsions. A great variety of conditions may develop in which these chemical changes in the tissues of the body occur.
By a series of careful examinations the doctor can often classify convulsions in relationship to a definite cause, but there still remain great numbers of cases for which no specific cause can be determined. Where some positive factor is established-for instance, pressure on the brain from a growth, a gunshot wound or a fracture-some positive measures may be taken to control the epilepsy. Convulsions in young children are most often idiopathic epilepsy. In older people a definite cause may be found as a tumor, or a change in pressure on the brain from some other cause.
When a person has convulsions, help should be given to keep him from injuring himself by falling against hard or sharp objects. A soft gag in the mouth will prevent biting or injuring the mouth and tongue. Doctors can prescribe or give by injection drugs that serve to induce quiet. However, any attack of convulsions should always be an indication or a warning that immediate steps must be taken to determine what is wrong.