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Epilepsy Health Center

Epilepsy Overview

Epilepsy is a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. There are different types of epilepsy and seizures. Epilepsy drugs are prescribed to control seizures, and rarely surgery is necessary if medications are ineffective.

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Symptoms of Epilepsy and Seizures

Epilepsy Symptoms

While many  types of repetitive behavior may represent a neurological problem, a doctor needs to establish whether or not they are seizures.

  • Generalized seizures: All areas of the brain (the cortex) are involved in a generalized seizure. Sometimes these are referred to as grand mal seizures.
    • The person experiencing such a seizure may cry out or make some sound, stiffen for several seconds to a minute and then have rhythmic movements of the arms and legs. Often the rhythmic movements slow before stopping.
    • Eyes are generally open.
    • The person may appear to not  be breathing and actually turn blue. This may be followed by a period of deep, noisy breathes.
    • The return to consciousness is gradual and  the person may be confused for quite some time –minutes to hours.
    • Loss of urine is common.
    • The person will frequently be confused 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, then only the hand may show rhythmic or jerky movements.
    • If other areas of the brain are involved, symptoms might include strange sensations like a full feeling in the stomach or small repetitive movements such as picking at one's clothes or smacking of the lips.
    • Sometimes the person with a partial seizure appears dazed or confused. This may represent a complex partial 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

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