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.
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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