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Seizures are the only visible symptom of epilepsy. There are different kinds of seizures, and symptoms of each type can affect people differently. Seizures typically last from a few seconds to a few minutes. You may be alert during the seizure or lose consciousness. You may not remember what happened during the seizure or may not even realize you had a seizure.
Seizures that make you fall to the ground or make the muscles stiffen or jerk out of control are easy to recognize. But many seizures do not involve these reactions and may be harder to notice. Some seizures make you stare into space for a few seconds. Others may consist only of a few muscle twitches, a turn of the head, or a strange smell or visual disturbance that only you sense.
Epileptic seizures often happen without warning, although some people may have an aura at the start of a seizure. A seizure ends when the abnormal electrical activity in the brain stops and brain activity begins to return to normal. Seizures may be either partial or generalized.
Partial seizures begin in a specific area or location of the brain. The most common types of partial seizures are:
Seizures that begin over the entire surface of the brain are called generalized seizures. The main types of generalized seizures are:
People may refer to seizures as convulsions, fits, or spells. But seizure is the correct term. Convulsions, during which the muscles twitch or jerk, are just one characteristic of seizures. Some seizures cause convulsions, but many do not.
Epileptic seizures are sometimes confused with psychogenic seizures, which are not due to abnormal electrical function. A psychogenic seizure may be a psychological response to stress, injury, emotional trauma, or other factors.
Types of epilepsy
There are many types of epilepsy. All types cause seizures. It can be hard to determine what type of epilepsy you have because of the numerous possible causes, because different types of seizures can occur in the same person, and because the types may affect each person differently.
Some specific types of epilepsy are:
Epilepsy is not a form of intellectual disability or mental illness. Although a few forms of childhood epilepsy are linked with below-average intelligence and problems with physical and mental development, epilepsy does not cause these problems. Seizures may look scary or strange, but they do not make a person crazy, violent, or dangerous.
Not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Seizures that are not epileptic may result from several different medical conditions such as poisoning, fever, fainting, or alcohol or drug withdrawal. Seizures that occur at the time of a disease, injury, or illness and stop when the condition improves are not related to epilepsy. But if seizures occur repeatedly (become chronic), occurring weeks, months, or even years after the injury or illness, you have developed epilepsy as a result of the condition.
There are several other conditions with similar symptoms, such as fainting or seizures caused by high fevers.
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