What're the symptoms of epilepsy?
Almost any type of behavior that happens repetitively may represent a seizure. There are several different types of seizures that can be manifest in the pediatric age group. Some of the common types include auras, generalized tonic clonic seizures (grand mal seizures), partial seizures, absence seizures. The seizures may occur rarely or every day. Many people with epilepsy have no symptoms between seizures and lead normal lives. Some people have no symptoms for
years and may be weaned off medication.
During childhood however there are several other conditions that may be mistaken for seizures. Some of the common entities that are misdiagnosed as seizures include breath holding spells,
syncope, psychological conditions, staring spells due to inattention.
There are many forms of epilepsy, each with its own characteristic symptoms. Whatever the form, the disease is caused by a problem in communication between the brain's nerve cells. Normally, such cells communicate with one another by sending tiny electrical signals back and forth. For someone with epilepsy, the signals from one group of nerve cells occasionally become too strong, so strong that they overwhelm neighboring parts of the brain. It is this sudden, excessive electrical discharge that causes the basic symptom of epilepsy, which is called an epileptic seizure, fit, or convulsion. It is not yet known what causes the brain's communication system to misfire in this fashion, or
An aura is usually the first symptom experienced during a seizure. Aura can occur just prior to the occurrence of the seizure or as much as several hours before it strikes. It may consist of nothing but a sense of tension or some other ill-defined feeling, but some epileptics have quite specific auras such as an impression of smelling unpleasant odors or hearing peculiar sounds, distorted vision, or an odd bodily sensation, particularly in the stomach. Many epileptics learn to recognize their special aura, and this may give them time to avoid accidents when they become unconscious.
Petit mal epilepsy is a disease of childhood that does not usually persist past late adolescence. A child may have this form of epilepsy if, from time to time, he or she suddenly stops whatever activity is going on and stares blankly around for a few seconds (sometimes up to half a minute). During the blank interval, known as a petit mal seizure, the child is unaware of what is happening. There may be a slight jerking movement of the head or an arm, but petit mal seizures do not generally involve falling to the ground. When the seizure ends, the child often does not realize that the brief blank spell has occurred. Such children are sometimes thought simply to be "day-dreamers."
The most characteristic symptom of grand mal epilepsy is a much more dramatic seizure. The person falls to the ground unconscious and then the entire body stiffens. Next, it twitches or jerks uncontrollably. This may last for several minutes and is usually followed by a period of deep sleep or mental confusion. During a seizure, some people lose bladder control and pass urine freely. In many cases, the person gets a warning of an impending seizure by having certain strange sensations before losing consciousness.
Breath holding spells may occur in toddlers. They occur in response to a minor injury or as an emotional response if a toddler gets upset and cries. During an episode a child cries out and then seems to hold his breath. His lips and mucous membranes may appear bluish (cyanotic breath holding spell) or less commonly, a child may appear very pale (pallid breath holding spell) during an episode. If the episode is prolonged, it may result in a generalized convulsion. It is important to distinguish such a convulsion from an epileptic seizure. Consultation with the primary care provider is the first step, and if necessary further subspecialty consultation with a neurologist may be obtained for accurate diagnosis.
Syncope or fainting occurs when a patient falls down and has a brief loss of consciousness. Sudden emotional stress, severe pain, sudden standing up or prolonged standing are some of the common causes which may lead to syncope. Misdiagnosis with epileptic seizures may occur if there is no clear history of a precipitating cause, while on the other hand, although infrequent, some epileptic seizures may have syncope as one of their manifestations. The primary care provided may refer such a patient to a neurology service for consultation and specialized testing, including a tilt table test and continuous video EEG monitoring to establish the correct diagnosis.
Seizure-like reactions can sometimes occur in response to stresses or unfavorable events in a patient’s past or present life. Such attacks are referred to as “non-epileptic behavioral events”. Other less-preferred terms for this phenomenon are pseudoseizures and psychogenic seizures. Non-epileptic behavioral events are often mistaken for epileptic seizures, but they are not due to epilepsy. During an attack, the patient often exhibits shaking of the limbs and body as in a seizure, and he or she may be unresponsive. A consultation with a neurologist is often necessary in order to determine whether a patient’s symptoms are due to epilepsy or to an underlying psychological disorder. Observation of the seizures in the inpatient video-EEG-monitoring unit may be necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.
Staring spells due to inattention are commonly misdiagnosed as “absence epilepsy”. Absence seizures (the seizure type associated with Absence epilepsy) and staring spells of non epileptic origin may outwardly appear very similar. Both are associated with brief episodes of a blank stare and lack of awareness for the surroundings. In order to prevent a misdiagnosis of epilepsy and mistreatment with prolonged use of antiepileptic medications the help of neurology consultation and EEG testing may be necessary.
Other types of epilepsy are much less common than petit and grand mal. Two additional types are called focal epilepsy and temporal lobe epilepsy. A person with focal epilepsy does not necessarily lose consciousness; the seizure begins with uncontrollable twitching of a small part of the body, and the twitch gradually spreads. The thumb of one hand, for instance, may start to jerk, followed by a jerking of the entire arm and then of the rest of that side of the body, after which there may be a more generalized seizure of the entire body.
A person with temporal lobe epilepsy is likely to have an aura lasting only a few seconds. Then, without being aware, the individual does something entirely out of character, such as becoming suddenly angry, laughing for no apparent reason, or interrupting normal activity with some sort of bizarre behavior. Strange, chewing movements of the mouth are apt to occur throughout any such episode.
The basic symptom of epilepsy is a brief and abnormal phase of behavior, commonly known as a seizure, fit or convulsion. It is important to realize that a single such episode does not indicate that the woman have epilepsy. By definition, epileptic seizures recur.
More information on epilepsy (seizures)
What is epilepsy? - Epilepsy is a general term that includes various types of seizures. Epilepsy is characterized by unprovoked, recurring seizures that disrupt the nervous system.
What are seizures? - Seizures (or convulsions) are temporary alterations in brain functions due to abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells that present with apparent clinical symptoms and findings.
What types of seizures are there? - The two main categories of seizures include partial seizures and generalized seizures. A partial seizure can evolve to a generalized seizure.
What types of epilepsy are there? - There are several types of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be divided into two broad categories: idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy.
What're the common types of epilepsy? - The most common types of epilepsy are absence epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy, frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
What causes epilepsy? - Epilepsy may be caused by a number of unrelated conditions, including damage resulting from high fever, stroke, toxicity, or electrolyte imbalances.
What causes children epilepsy? - There are many possible causes of epilepsy in children. Seizures in infants and children may be due to birth defects, difficulties during delivery, or poisoning.
What factors will trigger epilepsy? - The triggers of epilepsy include inadequate sleep, food allergies, alcohol and smoking, flashing lights, developmental anomalies, and brain tumours.
What're the symptoms of epilepsy? - There are many forms of epilepsy, each with its own characteristic symptoms. The basic symptom of epilepsy is a brief and abnormal phase of behavior.
How is epilepsy diagnosed? - Making an accurate diagnosis is vital in planning the correct treatment to control seizures. Taking a medical history can help rule out non-epilepsy conditions.
What're the treatments for epilepsy? - For most people with epilepsy, treatment can reduce or prevent seizures and allow many patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives.
What epilepsy medications are available? - Epilepsy is often treated with medication, neurocybernetic prostheses. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin, carbamazepine, divalproex.
What epilepsy surgeries are available? - Surgical techniques to remove injured brain tissue may be appropriate for many patients with epilepsy. The most common surgery for epilepsy is temporal lobectomy.
What is vagus nerve stimulation? - Vagus nerve stimulation is a recently developed form of seizure control which uses an implanted electrical device.
What epilepsy diet is suggested? - It is believe that a restricted caloric intake while on a balanced diet can lead to measurable seizure reduction among all age groups.
How to prevent epilepsy? - Effective actions for the prevention of epilepsy include adequate pre-natal and post-natal care, safe delivery, control of fever in children, control of parasitic diseases.
Epilepsy in children - Epilepsy is a common childhood disorder. The prospect of control by means of anti-epileptic drugs is good in most children with epilepsy.
Pregnancy and epilepsy - Women with epilepsy who become pregnant have a higher risk for complications than women who don't have epilepsy.
Difference between seizures and epilepsy - Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce a sudden burst of electrical energy.
What's a grand mal seizure? - A grand mal seizure is a seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness.
What's absence seizure (petit mal seizure)? - Absence seizure e - also known as petit mal seizure - is a type of seizure that most often occurs in children.
What is a febrile seizure? - A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child triggered by a fever. A febrile seizure may be as mild as the child's eyes rolling or limbs stiffening.
What are epileptic seizures? - An epileptic seizure, often referred to as a fit, occurs when there is an abnormal discharge of neurones in the brain.
What is status epilepticus? - Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure state. Status epilepticus is most often caused by not taking anticonvulsant medication as prescribed.
What causes seizures? - Seizures may be caused by many conditions, diseases, injuries, and other factors. Injuries that may cause seizures include choking, head injury.