Epileptic seizures are usually brief events lasting seconds to a few minutes. They can take many forms, depending on the area of the brain involved. They can mimic virtually any behavior or experience that occurs normally, and many that do not. Focal seizures involve parts of the brain on just one side that are responsible for movement, sensation, psychic experiences and bodily functions. Examples include motor movements such as jerking of one hand or half the face; sensory experiences such as visual images of flashing lights, dizziness, smells or tastes; psychic experiences such as distorted memories, hallucinations and mood alterations (eg., depression, anger, fear); and body discomfort usually localized to the stomach, chest or head. When the epileptic activity spreads to the other side of the brain, conscious control is lost, which can cause involuntary, often inappropriate and bizarre behaviors that are not remembered after the seizure is over. Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain and range from brief loss of consciousness (absences, petit mal seizures) to the classical convulsions that begins with loss of consciousness and stiffening of both arms and legs, often accompanied by a cry and falling, followed by severe jerking on both sides of the body and then relaxation and unresponsiveness (generalized tonic-clonic convulsions, grand mal seizures). During these events, there may be loss of bladder and/or bowel control and tongue biting. Other generalized seizures may consist only of brief stiffening or brief jerks or sudden loss of tone with falling (drop attacks). Focal seizures can progress to generalized seizures. Focal seizures with sensory, psychic or bodily function experiences that progress to more severe behaviors are called auras, but they are actually epileptic seizures. Depending on the type of seizure and area of brain involved there can be focal disturbances or severe unresponsiveness after the seizure is over, lasting from a few minutes to many hours (the postictal state).
Epilepsy & Seizures Warning Signs & Symptoms
1 AnswerAmerican Red Cross answeredA person with epilepsy may experience something called an aura before the seizure occurs. An aura is an unusual sensation or feeling, such as a visual hallucination; strange sound, taste or smell; or an urgent need to get to safety.
If the person recognizes the aura, he or she may have time to tell bystanders and sit down before the seizure occurs.
1 AnswerDonna Hill Howes, RN, Family Medicine, answeredSome people with seizure disorder experience symptoms that may lead a doctor to suspect a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Caused by problems in the brain's electrical activity, seizure disorder is one of several medical conditions mirroring the symptoms of schizophrenia. Some of these symptoms include:
- smelling or tasting things that others can't smell or taste
- feelings of unease
- seeing things that are not real
- speech disorders or lacking an ability to speak
1 AnswerKathleen Handal, MD, Emergency Medicine, answered
3 AnswersJohns Hopkins Medicine answeredYour child may have varying degrees of symptoms depending upon the type of seizure. The following are general symptoms of a seizure or warning signs that your child may be experiencing seizures. Symptoms or warning signs may include:
•Jerking movements of the arms and legs
•Stiffening of the body
•Loss of consciousness
•Breathing problems or breathing stops
•Loss of bowel or bladder control
•Falling suddenly for no apparent reason
•Not responding to noise or words for brief periods
•Appearing confused or in a haze
•Nodding the head
•Periods of rapid eye blinking and staring
During the seizure, the child's lips may become bluish and breathing may not be normal. The movements are often followed by a period of sleep or disorientation.
2 AnswersDiscovery Health answered
There are other conditions that include seizures which may resemble epileptic seizures. Those include sleep apnea, panic attacks, hypoglycemia, abnormal heart rhythm and fainting.
Alcoholics and drug addicts also can experience a seizure from substance abuse.
A sizable number of infants and small children also experience febrile seizures as a result of a high fever, but they generally do not develop epilepsy.
Although we consider epilepsy to be a disease, it is actually many different diseases with different causes and different symptoms. The paramount symptom that defines an epilepsy disease is the occurrence of epileptic seizures. There are also many different types of epileptic seizures, and diagnosis of the types of focal and generalized seizures help to diagnose specific epilepsy syndromes. Routine brain-wave tests (electroencephalograms – EEGs) often reveal abnormalities that help to identify the seizure types and, at times, the specific epilepsy syndromes. If necessary, patients can be admitted to a specialized epilepsy center for in-patient video-EEG monitoring in order to more definitively diagnose their seizure type(s). Other features that help to define the type of epilepsy include the presence of structural abnormalities in the brain as seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the age of onset of the epileptic seizures, other neurological, mental or behavioral disturbances, a family history of epilepsy and response to specific antiseizure (antiepileptic) drugs. For some patients, the most disabling symptoms are the seizures, but for others it can be the neurological, mental, and behavioral, symptoms between seizures, which may be due to an underlying disease process, seizures, or the antiseizure-drug treatment. The social limitations and stigma associated with epilepsy are also major causes of disability. The most serious symptom of epilepsy is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which occurs, for reasons that are not yet fully understood, in one-out-of-200-to-300 patients with epilepsy per year. People with epilepsy also die prematurely from accidents, prolonged seizures that do not stop (status epilepticus) and suicide due to a high prevalence of depression in people with epilepsy compared to the general population. The occurrence of SUDEP in patients with epileptic seizures that are not controlled by antiseizure drugs may be as high as one-out-of-100 patients per year, and the death rate in patients with uncontrolled seizures may be 10 times greater than that of the general population. Thus, epilepsy can be a life-threatening disease, especially if not adequately treated.