In this narrative review we focus on acute symptomatic seizures occurring in subjects with electrolyte disturbances. Quite surprisingly, despite its clinical relevance, this issue has received very little attention in the scientific literature. Electrolyte abnormalities are commonly encountered in clinical daily practice, and their diagnosis relies on routine laboratory findings. Acute and severe electrolyte imbalances can manifest with seizures, which may be the sole presenting symptom. Seizures are more frequently observed in patients with sodium disorders (especially hyponatremia), hypocalcemia, and hypomagnesemia. They do not entail a diagnosis of epilepsy, but are classified as acute symptomatic seizures. EEG has little specificity in differentiating between various electrolyte disturbances. The prominent EEG feature is slowing of the normal background activity, although other EEG findings, including various epileptiform abnormalities may occur. An accurate and prompt diagnosis should be established for a successful management of seizures, as rapid identification and correction of the underlying electrolyte disturbance (rather than an antiepileptic treatment) are of crucial importance in the control of seizures and prevention of permanent brain damage.
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