Epilepsy and Seizures: Signs and Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of a seizure?

The symptoms of a seizure depend on the location of extraelectrical activity in the brain. Symptoms can vary in intensity and may be subtle (like staring into space) or intense (such as full body shaking).

Types of generalized seizures

During a generalized seizure, the surge of electrical activity affects the whole brain. There are several types of generalized seizure, including:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizure: During this type of seizure, a child will suddenly lose consciousness, fall to the floor (if standing) and stiffen. The child’s arms and legs will shake. The child may turn blue or pale, bite the tongue, or urinate. This type of seizure usually lasts 1 to 5 minutes. Often the child will be sleepy after the seizure and want to rest.
  • Absence seizure: A child will stare with a glazed look, often accompanied by blinking, chewing and facial twitching, and does not realize what is happening. When the seizure ends, the child is immediately alert. These seizures typically only last for a few seconds and may happen several times throughout the day.
  • Myoclonic seizures are sudden jerks of muscle groups. One or more part of the body jerks suddenly and briefly.
  • Atonic seizures cause the muscles of the body go limp andthe child is at a high risk for falling. These are sometimes called "drop seizures."

Types of partial seizures

Partial seizures are caused by excess electrical activity injust one part of the brain. The electrical activity may stay in one area or travel to other areas of the brain.

A simple partial seizure varies from child to child. It can involve movement (jerking one part of the body), abnormal sensation, loss of bowel or bladder control, or an emotional sensation called an “aura” where the child can sense that a seizure is coming. The area of the body affected depends on what part of the brain is affected. During simple partial seizures, the child always stays alert and aware.

A complex partial seizure may look similar to a simple partial seizure, but will always involve loss of awareness. The child may have a simple partial seizure (starting in just one part of the brain) that spreads to a different area of the brain and causes a loss of awareness. You may see the child lip smacking, picking at clothes, wandering, making chewing motions,or it may suddenly become hard to understand the child’s speech. Both types of partial seizures last only for a few minutes.

What are the signs and symptoms of epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures.Epilepsy is defined as two or more seizures that cannot be traced to another brain event like a concussion or an extremely high fever. The two seizures are usually separated in time by 24 hours.