Symptoms of Epilepsy and Seizures

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on November 27, 2022

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 onset aware 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 focal onset impaired awareness seizure This 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.

Show Sources


MedlinePlus: "Epilepsy."

Epilepsy Seizure Symptoms from eMedicineHealth

Epilepsy Foundation: "Types of Seizures."

Epilepsy Foundation: "Frequently Asked Questions."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Seizure and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research."

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