What are alcohol withdrawal crises? (38 characters)

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Alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures, with up to a third of heavy drinkers experiencing them. The seizures tend to occur within hours of the last drink and can be potentially fatal. Medical attention is necessary, and treatment involves stabilizing the patient with anticonvulsants and benzodiazepines. It is important to rule out other conditions that could cause seizures.

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the potential effects of abruptly stopping heavy and regular drinking. Up to a third of patients who suddenly stop drinking may experience seizures. Most alcohol withdrawal seizures are of a variety known as generalized tonic-clonic, involving the entire body, although partial seizures are possible. Seizures tend to occur within hours of the last drink, anywhere from six hours to two days, and typically peak at 24 hours. Multiple seizures may occur during this time period: about three to four cases are common.

Alcohol consumption affects neuronal networks in the brainstem. These systems adapt to high levels of alcohol, essentially changing their function. When alcohol, the element that caused that adaptation, is gone, the body goes into shock. The body’s cells need to quickly relinquish the adaptation they’ve made to alcohol, but the supply has been cut off so abruptly that they are unable to make the adjustment quickly enough. A key factor in research focused on the management of alcohol withdrawal crises is the attempt to understand how these neuronal networks function and adapt.

Repeated attempts to abruptly stop drinking alcohol can increase the chance of withdrawal-related seizures. The severity and frequency of seizures can also increase with each detox attempt. If the cycle of drinking and total cessation does not cease, symptoms usually worsen to the point of death.

Individuals suffering from alcohol withdrawal tend to shiver and sweat heavily. Cramps, body aches, and dehydration are common. There may also be an increase in body temperature and unstable blood pressure.

Alcohol withdrawal seizures are potentially fatal and emergency medical attention should be provided. Medical care is typically focused on stabilizing the patient. Anticonvulsants and benzodiazepines are often given to stop and prevent new seizures from happening again. The patient may also be treated with oxygen, intravenous fluids, electrolytes, and other similar methods to restore balance to the system.

Because an alcoholic has severely impaired health, the seizures may not necessarily be due to alcohol withdrawal. Doctors typically will examine a patient to rule out other conditions that could potentially have been caused by the disease, including head trauma, infections, and epilepsy. It is important to determine what is causing the condition, as treatment for alcohol withdrawal seizures is more short-term than the extensive therapy required for the causes of most seizures.

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