People with epilepsy have different types of seizures. One person may fall and jerk, whereas someone else may only appear absent or nonresponsive for a while and stare.
For some people the seizure affects only a part of the brain. This type of seizure is called a partial seizure. A generalized seizure occurs when the whole brain is affected by the seizure and one loses consciousness.
Most people have only one type of seizure, but in some instances they experience several types of seizures. These include:
During a partial seizure, only a part of the brain is affected. The signs and symptoms will depend on the part of the brain where the seizure occurs and which body functions are controlled by that part of the
The following seizures are partial seizures:
- Simple partial seizures: In this type of seizure, the person remains conscious but experiences sensations or uncontrolled movements. The seizure can cause rhythmical twitching of one limb or a part of the limb, or unusual tastes or feelings such as pins and needles in a specific part of the body. These unusual sensations or movements are sometimes the beginning of a generalized seizure with eventual loss of consciousness;
they are known as ‘warning signs’ or ‘auras’.
- Complex partial seizures: These seizures differ from simple partial seizures in that consciousness is reduced and the person will remember nothing or very little of what happened during the seizure. The seizure can begin with an odd taste in the mouth or smell like rotten eggs, a rising feeling in the stomach, or a sense of déjà vu. Then the awareness slowly reduces and the person may fiddle with clothes or objects, mumbling or wandering about in a state of general confusion. The person may respond if spoken to. The person is often tired, briefly confused after the seizure and may have a headache.
- Partial seizures secondarily generalized: These seizures start as partial seizures, then spreads to the whole brain, leading to a seizure such as the tonic-clonic seizure that involves the loss of consciousness.
In generalized seizures, the whole of the brain is affected during the seizure and the person loses consciousness. These seizures mostly come without a warning sign (aura) and afterwards the person will not know what had happened during the seizure.
- Tonic clonic seizure: It is the most common type of seizure, also known as grand mal seizure. In the first part of the seizure, the person becomes stiff and may fall. The muscles then relax and tighten rhythmically causing the person to convulse. At the start of the seizure the person may bite their tongue or cry out. In some cases they may urinate. After the seizure they might be tired, confused, have a headache and may need some rest to recover fully.
- Absence seizure: This is common in children, also known as petit mal. The person briefly loses consciousness and doesn’t respond to anything. They appear blank and make no movements, except for maybe fluttering of the eyelids or swallowing movements. Absence seizures often last for only a few seconds and usually go unnoticed. Absence seizures are regularly confused with day dreaming. However, children who daydream tends to respond if someone pushes them or talks to them, whereas children who are experiencing an absence don’t.
- Tonic seizure: General stiffening of the muscles without rhythmical jerking is characteristic for this type of seizure. The person may fall to the ground with a consequent risk of injury, however recovery is quick.
- Atonic seizure: Also known as drop attacks, they involve a sudden loss of muscle tone, causing the person to fall. The risk of getting injured during this seizure is high, but recovery is generally quick.
- Myoclonic seizure: This involves brief and abrupt jerking of one or more limbs. This often happens within a short time of waking up. The seizures can happen on their own or with other forms of a generalized seizure