differ in their severity and can cause a wide range of symptoms. Some seizures can be mild and last only a minute or two. Other seizures cause intense symptoms that last much longer. Acute, repetitive seizures can result in damage to the heart or brain, and possibly death if emergency treatment is not given right away.
There are many different ways of classifying seizures. Examples include:
These seizures begin from just one part of the brain. Symptoms include: Tingling or numbness sensations in the arms, legs, hands, or feetMuscle twitching of one side of a limb, hand, finger, or muscleExperiencing smells, tastes, sights, sounds, or other sensations that are not realUnusual, repetitive, uncontrolled motions or movements, such as chewing movements or smacking of the lips
The term Jacksonian march implies that the symptoms spread from one part of the body to another.
Focal onset seizures can become generalized. This means that they spread to both sides of the brain.
These seizures begin from both sides of the brain. Symptoms include: UnconsciousnessLoss of urinary or bowel controlMuscle spasms or stiffening of the musclesDrop attacksUnusual, repetitive, uncontrolled motions or movementsBiting of tongue
Prior to the convulsions:
Feeling of unusual warning, such as the smell of burning rubber
Deep sleep, drowsiness, confusion, or altered responsivenessAwakening with headacheAwakening with no memory of the seizure
One type of generalized seizure without convulsions is known as absence, also called petit mal, seizures. This type is more common in children. Symptoms include: Appearance of daydreamingBlinking of the eyes rhythmicallyTwitching of facial musclesNo memory of the seizure after it occurs
There are also other types of generalized seizures without convulsive activity.
Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 18, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2013.
Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2013.
NINDS Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Updated February 21, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2013.
What is epilepsy? Epilepsy Foundation
website. Available at:
http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/whatisepilepsy/index.cfm. Accessed February 22, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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