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Epilepsy Seizure Types and Symptoms

Based on the type of behavior and brain activity, seizures are divided into two broad categories: generalized and partial (also called local or focal). Classifying the type of seizure helps doctors diagnose whether or not a patient has epilepsy.

Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the entire brain; partial seizures are produced (at least initially) by electrical impulses in a relatively small part of the brain. The part of the brain generating the seizures is sometimes called the focus. The most common types of seizures are listed below:

Generalized Seizures
(Produced by the entire brain)
1. "Grand Mal" or Generalized tonic-clonic Unconsciousness, convulsions, muscle rigidity
2. Absence Brief loss of consciousness
3. Myoclonic Sporadic (isolated), jerking movements
4. Clonic Repetitive, jerking movements
5. Tonic Muscle stiffness, rigidity
6. Atonic Loss of muscle tone

Generalized Seizures

There are six types of generalized seizures. The most common and dramatic, and therefore the most well known, is the generalized convulsion, also called the grand-mal seizure. In this type of seizure, the patient loses consciousness and usually collapses. The loss of consciousness is followed by generalized body stiffening (called the "tonic" phase of the seizure) for 30 to 60 seconds, then by violent jerking (the "clonic" phase) for 30 to 60 seconds, after which the patient goes into a deep sleep (the "postictal" or after-seizure phase). During grand-mal seizures, injuries and accidents may occur, such as tongue biting and urinary incontinence.

WebMD Medical Reference


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