Almost any type of behavior that happens repetitively may represent a seizure.
- Generalized seizures: All areas of the brain (the cortex) are involved in a generalized seizure. Sometimes these are referred to as grand mal seizures.
- To the observer, the person experiencing such a seizure may cry out or make some sound, stiffen for some seconds, then have rhythmic movements of the arms and legs. Often the rhythmic movements slow before stopping.
- Eyes are generally open.
- The person may not appear to be breathing. The person is often breathing deeply after an episode.
- The return to consciousness is gradual and should occur within a few moments.
- Loss of urine is common.
- Often people will be confused briefly after a generalized seizure.
- Partial or focal seizures: Only part of the brain is involved, so only part of the body is affected. Depending on the part of the brain having abnormal electrical activity, symptoms may vary.
- If the part of the brain controlling movement of the hand is involved, for example, then perhaps only the hand may show rhythmic movements or jerking.
- If other areas of the brain are involved, symptoms might include strange sensations or small repetitive movements such as picking at clothes or lip smacking.
- Sometimes the person with a partial seizure appears dazed or confused. This may represent a partial complex seizure. The term "complex" is used by doctors to describe a person who is between being fully alert and unconscious.
- Absence or petit mal seizures: These are most common in childhood.
- Impairment of consciousness is present with the person often staring blankly.
- Repetitive blinking or other small movements may be present.
- Typically, these seizures are brief, lasting only seconds. Some people may have many of these in a day.
- Other seizure types exist particularly in very small children.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/6/2016
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Must Read Articles Related to Epilepsy
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep. It's related to restless leg syndrome, but it is a distinct d...learn more >>
Seizures and Fever
Febrile seizures, also known as convulsions, body spasms, or shaking, occur mainly in children and are caused by fever. (Febrile is derived from the Latin febri...learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Epilepsy: