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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