Types of epilepsy seizures

3rd May 2018

Epilepsy seizures are caused by electrical disturbances in the brain. There are various types of epilepsy seizures, a sudden burst of electrical activity that arises in the brain, it depends which part of the brain the seizure arises from as to how the seizure presents itself. Anybody can have a single seizure, however this is not a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Here’s a brief explanation of the different types of epilepsy seizure:

Genralised Seizures

Absence seizures

Absence seizures (used to known as petit mal) are more commonly found in children. They can occur quite frequently and result in the person becoming unconscious for approximately 10 seconds, often with their eyelids fluttering or they may appear blank and stare into space for some time. During an absence seizure the person will be completely unaware and unresponsive to their environment, however, some may carry on walking, remain seated or knelt up.

Atonic seizures

Also can be referred to as a ‘drop attack’, an atonic seizure occurs when the muscles become relaxed, lose all tone and go floppy. If standing, this means they will often fall which can lead to injury, especially if they fall forward which can lead to facial injuries. Atonic seizures are usually brief and the person can often recover quite quickly, although they may sustain injury during the fall.

Tonic seizure

A tonic seizure is when all of the muscles in the body suddenly contract, the person becomes rigid and will fall backwards. In this case, the person can sustain injury to the back of the head and body. Tonic seizures are usually brief and the person should recover quickly if they have not sustained injury.

Myoclonic seizure

In simple terms, myoclonic means muscle jerk, the experience is similar to the (hypnic) jerk many have whilst falling asleep. Hypnic jerks are a natural phenomenon that occur people are falling asleep, so please do not be alarmed if you experience one. Myoclonic seizures are extremely brief but can occur in clusters, meaning the person may experience a number of seizures in a short period of time. Myoclonic seizures occur most commonly within the first couple of hours of waking up, although they can occur at any other time.

Tonic-clonic seizures

Tonic-clonic are what most people imagine when they think of a seizure. The person may have a glazed look, the muscles of the body all contract and the person becomes stiff and rigid. They may become blue around the mouth as a person’s breathing is often affected. They will lose consciousness and will fall if stood up. They may remain in a rigid state for up to 30 seconds, after which the muscles will begin to contract and relax which results in jerking and convulsing movements.

They may have mouth injuries from biting and their may be incontinence of urine. After a tonic-clonic seizure the person is often tired, disoriented and confused and may want to sleep, their breathing and colour should return to normal.

Focal Seizures

Focal aware seizures

Previously known as simple partial seizures, a focal aware seizure is when the person remains conscious and alert. They are aware of the seizure that is happening and what’s going on around them but are unable to do anything about it. It can include numbness, an unusual smell or taste, deja vu, intense feelings or many other descriptions. People find focal aware seizures difficult to describe and they often precede other seizure types.

Focal impaired awareness seizures

Focal impaired seizures typically affect a larger part of the brain than focal aware seizures. This means that the person will have loss of awareness and following this seizure may become confused and disoriented. They may undress, fiddle obsessively, chew or make lip-smacking movements, mumble and jumble words or wander around in a confused manner. However, they are just some common ways it may present. They struggle to process what’s going on around them and make sense of what’s being said to them. If spoken to loudly they may perceive this as aggression and respond in an aggressive manner.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on seizure types and how to effectively manage each one, get in touch with the team. Call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk to speak to one of the team today.