Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Epilepsy Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Seizures -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Seizures?

Symptoms of seizures vary widely, depending on the part of the brain affected by the electrical misfiring. If a very small part of the brain is affected, you might sense only an odd smell or taste. In other cases, you could have hallucinations or convulsions, or you could lose consciousness.

  • Generalized tonic-clonic. This type of seizure is sometimes preceded by an aura (awareness of a strange odor, taste, or vision). You might lose consciousness and fall and experience muscle rigidity (stiffness) or convulsions (jerking movements of the arms and legs). You may also lose bladder control or bite your tongue. After regaining consciousness, you might feel confused and fall asleep.
  • Generalized absence. This involves loss of consciousness and blank stares or eyelid fluttering for 10 to 30 seconds. You feel well enough to resume activity right after the seizure.
  • Simple partial. Although you don’t lose consciousness, you have involuntary movements, sensations, or psychic experiences such as awareness of a smell or a sense of déjà vu lasting several seconds.
  • Complex partial. Initial disorientation is followed by strange movements of the arms or legs or odd vocalizations for one to three minutes, as well as loss of consciousness.
  • Jacksonian. Muscle twitching begins in a single area and then progresses, for example, from the hand to the arm.
  • Febrile. Preceded by fever in children younger than 5, these seizures can be very brief tonic-clonic type seizures or partial seizures lasting more than 15 minutes. Most children who have a fever-induced seizure never experience a second seizure.
  • Infantile spasms (West Syndrome). Lasting just a few seconds, bending of limbs, neck, and torso while lying down may occur often during a single day. This usually only strikes children younger than 3, often those with developmental delays or disabilities.

 

Recommended Related to Epilepsy

Epilepsy 101

More than 2 million people in the United States have some form of epilepsy, a group of related disorders marked by recurrent seizures. WebMD asked epilepsy experts your most frequently asked questions.

Read the Epilepsy 101 article > >

Call Your Doctor About Seizures If:

  • Seizures are prolonged or occur in a continuous series, causing intense muscle contractions or difficulty breathing. This may be a condition known as status epilepticus. This is a rare but life-threatening event that requires immediate medical attention. It can cause permanent damage to the brain or heart.
  • You or someone without a prior history of epilepsy experiences a seizure for the first time. You need a doctor's diagnosis. The cause also could be poisoning, stroke, brain tumor, or drug overdose. In feverish infants, convulsions could be a sign of meningitis. Get medical help immediately.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on April 03, 2013

Today on WebMD

Grand mal seizure
Slideshow
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 
Epilepsy Causes
Article
First Aid Seizures
Article
 

Seizures Driving
Article
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Article
 
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
Article
Graces Magic Diet
VIDEO
 

Pets Improve Your Health
SLIDESHOW
Caring Child Epilepsy
Article
 
Making Home Safe
Article
Epilepsy Surgery Cure
VIDEO