Types of Seizures and Their Symptoms – National Epilepsy Day

Epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder, is a chronic condition. This brain condition causes seizures which affect the way a patient acts, feels or moves. However, not all seizures are due to epilepsy. These include –

  • a seizure caused by hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • a seizure caused by fever
  • a seizure right after a brain injury
  • a seizure following emotional stress
  • a seizure caused by certain drugs

This National Epilepsy Day, we cover different types of seizures caused by epilepsy. Share the information with your family and friends and build awareness around this neurological condition.

First, let’s begin with two types of epileptic seizures:

1) Focal/partial Seizures

These originate in just one part of your brain. They can cause a wide range of symptoms including muscle contractions, feeling frightened, unusual eye movements, vision changes, and numbness or tingling.  Around 60% of people who suffer from epilepsy have focal seizures. The symptoms of focal seizures are sometimes mistaken as signs of nerve disorders or mental illness.

Types of Focal Seizures

a) Simple focal Seizures:

Simple focal seizures can affect any of these sense: Touch; Taste; Hearing; Vision; Smell. Patients might even feel dizzy and see flashes of light. In cases focal seizures, patients may not lose complete consciousness but might feel nauseated and sweaty.

b) Complex focal Seizures:

Often preceded by a simple focal seizure (aura), these seizures originate in the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. The patient may become unconscious and after gaining consciousness he/she doesn’t remember anything about the episode. It takes several minutes to come out of complex focal seizure conditions. The patient may also experience repetitive non-purposeful behaviors (such as blinking and lip smacking) called automatisms.

c) Secondary Generalised Seizures:

These originate in one part of the brain and then spread to both sides. Symptoms of secondary generalised seizures include muscle slackness and convulsions.

2) Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures starts in both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously from the start. These seizures usually cause the patient to lose consciousness for a very brief time. Other symptoms include stiffening of muscles, falling down, jaw clenching, incontinence, and breathing problems.

2. Types of Generalised Seizures

a) Tonic-clonic Seizures:

These seizures begin with the stiffening of body, arms, or legs, followed by jerking of the limbs and face. In the tonic phase (the stiffening part of the seizure) the patient may see their lips, face and nail beds turning blue. Their breathing may even slow down or cease completely. In the clonic phase, the patient returns to normal breathing, however it might be irregular. The clonic phase does not last more than a minute.

However, some patients may only experience the stiffening or the tonic phase of the seizure, while others may experience only the clonic one. Other symptoms include incontinence and patients biting their tongues. After the seizure, patients may experience lethargy and may want to sleep. He/she may also experience headaches.

b) Atonic Seizures:

When atonic seizures occur, the patient experiences a sudden loss of muscle tone which may cause his/her head to lean forward and muscles turning limp. If they are standing, they may lose balance and fall, and they you are holding something, they may drop it. The episode lasts for 10-15 seconds. Some patients may experience such episodes several times in a row.

c) Myoclonic Seizures:

In myoclonic seizures, the muscles may jerk suddenly. It’s often similar to experiencing a shock. The patient may experience single jerk, or jerks repeated over longer periods.

d) Absence (or petit mal) Seizures:

In this case, the patient may seem disconnected from the people around them. The patient may not respond in a way they usually do. Other symptoms include brief upward rotation of the eyes, forgetting about the episode completely, and staring blankly. These seizures usually start between ages 4 to 12.

If your child has been diagnosed with pediatric epilepsy, it is important that you work with the pediatric neurologist to understand the type(s) of seizures the child is experiencing and the treatment options. Remember that seizures may not happen in the doctor’s office, which is why keep a seizure diary where you can observe and track your child’s symptoms as well as any unusual behavior and report it to the pediatric neurologist.

If your child is experiencing seizures without any known diagnosis of epilepsy, then immediately visit a paediatric neurologist to understand the symptoms properly. At Neotia Getwel Healthcare Centre, we have a dedicated Paediatric Neurology & Paediatrics Department that specialises in taking care of early, advanced, and emergency epilepsy cases.  Learn more about the department at https://www.neotiagetwelsiliguri.com/neurology-and-neurosurgery/