Seizures are caused by a disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain. Seizures may cause sudden changes in movement, behavior, or awareness. The symptoms typically last for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Seizures are classified by the location of the abnormal brain activity.
- Focal Seizure- Focal seizures are also referred to as partial seizure. It occurs when there is abnormal activity in one specific region of the brain.
- Simple focal seizure- A simple partial seizure typically occurs without loss of consciousness or altered awareness. A person might notice changes in the way things taste, smell, look, or sound while having this type of seizure. This seizure may cause various sensory symptoms such as seeing flashing light, tingling, and dizziness. A person might also experience jerking, sweating, or nausea during a focal seizure.
- Complex focal seizure- A complex focal seizure may alter awareness or cause loss of consciousness. A person may stare in space or be unable to respond to people around them. A person might also repeat movements such as blinking, chewing, swallowing, or rubbing their hands together. This type of seizure typically occurs in the area of the brain responsible for memory and emotion and a person might laugh or cry during a complex partial seizure.
- Generalized seizure- Generalized seizures occur when there is abnormal brain activity on both sides of the brain. Symptoms of generalized seizure may include loss of consciousness, muscle cramping, or falls. There are six types of generalized seizure.
- Tonic-clonic seizure- Tonic-clonic seizures are also referred to as grand mal seizure. These seizures are characterized by loss of consciousness, body stiffness, and jerking. A person may also bite their tongue or lose control of their bowel or bladder. This type of seizure typically lasts for 1-3 minutes.
- Tonic seizure- Tonic seizures cause the muscles to stiffen. The muscle stiffness usually occurs in the arms, legs, or back. Tonic seizures typically lasts for less than 20 seconds, and often occurs when a person is asleep. However, if a person is standing during the seizure it may cause them to fall.
- Atonic seizure- Atonic seizures are also referred to as drop seizure. During an atonic seizure a person is unable to control their muscles. A person’s head may lean forward during the seizure, or they might drop objects if they are holding something. If the person is standing, the loss of muscle control may cause them to fall. Atonic seizure usually lasts for about 15 seconds, however a person may have multiple in a row.
- Clonic seizure- Clonic seizures are characterized by rhythmic jerking movements. The jerking usually affects the face, neck, or arms. Clonic seizures may last for several minutes.
- Myoclonic seizure- Myoclonic seizures are characterized by sudden brief twitching in the muscles. The twitching usually occurs in the arms or legs.
- Absence seizure- Absence seizures are also referred to as petit mal seizures. During an absence seizure, a person is disconnected from their environment and does not respond to others around them. A person might stare blankly during the seizure. The seizures typically lasts for a few seconds, and a person might not recall having one. Absence seizures are more common in children under 14 years of age.
Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent seizures without provocation. However, a person may have a seizure without epilepsy.
The seizure may be caused by a stroke, brain tumor, electrolyte imbalance, head trauma, fever, sleep deprivation, medications, recreational drug use, or alcohol abuse.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures the electrical activity of the brain and may be used to diagnose epilepsy. Your doctor may also order imaging of the brain such as an MRI or CT scan to determine if there is a lesion or abnormality that may cause the seizure.
If a person is likely to have a repeated seizure, the condition may be treated with anti-seizure medication. If anti-seizure medication does not help other treatments such as surgery may be an option.