Signs and Symptoms
Epileptic seizures can take a very wide variety of forms but are broadly divided into generalized and focal or partial seizures. Partial or focal seizures affect part or a whole limb and may or may not become generalized. If there is no alteration in consciousness it is known as simple partial or Jacksonian seizures and if consciousness is altered or lost it is known as complex partial seizures, commonly known as psychomotor or temporal lobe epilepsy. Generalised seizures affect the whole body and consciousness is lost. However, by far the most common is Generalised seizures (involving the whole brain) commonly known as “Grand Mal” or “Tonic Clonic” seizures or major seizures.
People with epilepsy experience more than one type of seizure. The two categories of seizures are called generalized and partial.
A) Generalized Seizures
Generalized seizures result from electrical impulses arising from the entire brain. They typically occur without warning. There are six types of generalized seizures.
- Absence seizure – You will lose awareness and stare blankly for a few seconds. Usually, there are no other symptoms. These seizures may occur several times a day.
- Atonic seizure – During this kind of seizure, your muscles will relax, particularly in the arms and legs, which can cause you to suddenly fall and often injure themselves.
- Clonic seizure – Both sides of your body jerk rhythmically at the same time.
- Myoclonic seizure – Your body may jerk, as if being shocked by electricity. The jerks can range from a single muscle jerking to involvement of the entire body.
- Tonic-clonic – You will lose consciousness and may also collapse. Your body becomes stiff and begins jerking. Finally, your child will fall into a deep sleep. Injuries such as tongue-biting can occur, as well as a loss of bladder control.
- Tonic seizure – Your child’s muscles suddenly become very stiff.
B) Partial Seizures
Partial seizures originate from activity in a smaller part of the brain. They are divided into simple and complex.The difference between simple and complex seizures is that during simple partial seizures, your child will retain awareness. During complex partial seizures, your child will lose awareness.
- Simple partial seizure – Your child may experience movements such as jerking or stiffening, various sensations. Full consciousness is retained.
- Complex partial seizure This is the same as a simple partial seizure except that your child’s awareness is impaired. He or she may appear to be “Out of touch” or “Spaced out.” Your child also may involuntarily chew, walk, fidget or perform other repetitive movements or simple actions.
Although the symptoms listed below are not necessarily indicators of epilepsy, it is wise to consult a doctor if you or a member of your family experiences one or more of these symptoms:
- “Blackouts” or periods of unclear memory.
- Episodes of staring or unexplained periods of unresponsiveness.
- Involuntary movement of arms and legs.
- “Fainting spells” with involuntary urination or defecation followed by excessive fatigue. or
- “Hearing of odd sounds”, distorted perceptions, feelings of fear or emotional distress that cannot be explained.
Seizures can be Generalized (‘Grand Mal’) or Partial (‘Petit Mal’ or ‘Absence’) or of a type that affects only a localized area of the brain (‘Partial seizures’). Generalized seizures manifest as episodes of involuntary twitching of the extremities, uncontrolled head movement, frothing at the mouth, rapid eye movement, usually followed by a period of unconsciousness. For a varying period of time after an epileptic seizure, the patient may be confused & unresponsive.
Seizures are partial when the abnormal electrical activity is limited to one part of the brain. Such partial seizures can cause periods of “Repetitive behavior” and altered consciousness. This is characterized by behavior, such as buttoning or unbuttoning a shirt. Such behavior, however, is unconscious, may be repetitive, and is usually not remembered.