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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epilepsy - Symptoms

Generalized seizures

Seizures that begin over the entire surface of the brain are called generalized seizures. The main types of generalized seizures are:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures), during which the person falls to the ground, the entire body stiffens, and the person's muscles begin to jerk or spasm (convulse).
  • Absence seizures (petit mal seizures), which make a person stare into space for a few seconds and then "wake up" without knowing that anything has happened.
  • Myoclonic seizures, which make the body jerk like it is being shocked.
  • Atonic seizures, in which a sudden loss of muscle tone makes the person fall down without warning.
  • Tonic seizures, in which the muscles suddenly contract and stiffen, often causing the person to fall down.

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:

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