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
2 AnswersKathleen 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.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, an individual with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be very similar from episode to episode, but some individuals have many different types of seizures, with different symptoms each time.
Doctors will classify seizures as either partial or generalized, based on how the abnormal brain activity begins. When seizures appear to result from abnormal activity in just one part of the brain, they are called partial or focal seizures. Seizures that seem to involve all of the brain are called generalized seizures. In some cases, seizures can begin in one part of the brain and then spread throughout the rest of the brain. Seizures may progress from partial to generalized.
Simple partial seizures: Simple partial seizures do not result in loss of consciousness. These seizures may alter emotions or change the way things look, smell, feel, taste, or sound.
Complex partial seizures: Complex partial seizures alter consciousness, causing the individual to lose awareness for a period of time. Complex partial seizures often result in staring and non-purposeful movements, such as hand rubbing, lip smacking, arm positioning, vocalization, or swallowing.
Generalized seizures involve epileptic activity in all or most of the brain.
Absence seizures (petit mal): Absence seizures are characterized by staring, subtle body movements, and brief lapses of awareness.
Myoclonic seizures: Myoclonic seizures usually appear as sudden jerks of the arms and legs.
Atonic seizures: Atonic seizures are also known as drop attacks and may cause the individual to suddenly collapse or fall down.
Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal): Tonic-clonic seizures are the most common form of generalized seizures. They are also the most widely recognized epileptic seizure. In a tonic-clonic seizure, the person loses consciousness, the body stiffens, and then they fall to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. After a minute or two, the jerking movements usually stop and consciousness slowly returns.
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