Types of Seizures
Generalized seizures are a result of abnormal neuronal activity on both sides of the brain. These seizures may cause loss of consciousness, falls, or massive muscle spasms.
There are many generalized seizure types, including:
- Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)
- Tonic seizures
- Clonic seizures
- Myoclonic seizures
- Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures).
In absence seizures, the person may appear to be staring into space or have jerking or twitching muscles. These seizures are sometimes referred to as petit mal seizures, which is an older term. Tonic seizures cause stiffening of muscles of the body, generally those in the back, legs, and arms. Clonic seizures cause repeated jerking movements of muscles on both sides of the body. Myoclonic seizures cause jerks or twitches of the upper body, arms, or legs.
Atonic seizures cause a loss of normal muscle tone. The affected person will fall down or may drop his or her head involuntarily.
Tonic-clonic seizures cause a variety of symptoms, including stiffening of the body and repeated jerks of the arms and legs, as well as loss of consciousness. Tonic-clonic seizures are sometimes referred to by an older term: grand mal seizures.
Not all seizures can be easily defined as either focal or generalized. Some people have seizures that begin as focal seizures but then spread to the entire brain. Other people may have both types of seizures but with no clear pattern.
Society's lack of understanding about the many different kinds of seizures is one of the biggest problems for people with epilepsy. People who witness a non-convulsive seizure often find it difficult to understand that behavior which looks deliberate is not under the person's control.
In some cases, this has led to the affected person being arrested or admitted to a psychiatric hospital. To combat these problems, it is important for people everywhere to understand the many different types of seizures and how they may appear.