Epilepsy Seizure Types

Epilepsy Seizures Types Chart

The chart above shows the different seizure types. You may have heard of some of them before but not all of them. Some are rarer than others. There are also other seizure types like cataplexy, grand mal seizures, tonic clonic seizures, atypical or mixed seizure types.

There are many different types of epilepsy. The most common ones are:

Tonic Clonic Seizures (Torsades)

These seizures occur when there is a sudden increase in the muscle tone of one side of your body. The muscles contract and relax in a jerking motion. Sometimes other body systems are also involved. The tonic phase involves the body part or parts involved becoming stiff and rigid.

The clonic phase involves the muscles jerking rhythmically. This can lead to a loss of consciousness and changes in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.

Tonic Seizures

In these types of seizure, only the muscles become rigid and there is no jerking. The person undergoing the seizure cannot move for however long the seizure lasts.

Atonic (Drop) Seizures

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In atonic seizures the muscles become very weak and the person undergoing the seizure will collapse and may lose consciousness.

Myoclonic Seizures

These types of seizure involve quick, sudden movements of a muscle or group of muscles. This may be just a single twitch or several in quick succession.

Absence Seizures (Petit Mal)

These types of seizure involve a short loss of awareness. You may stop what you are doing and stare blankly into space for a few seconds. When the seizure ends, you resume whatever you were doing. You may not even realize you have just had a seizure.

During an absence seizure, your eyes may blink rapidly and your eyelids may flutter. You may also make rapid, random movements with your hands. These types of seizure can sometimes be mistaken for lack of concentration.

Cluster Seizures

These types of seizure are similar to absence seizures. The difference is that an absence seizure lasts for only a very short time. During a cluster seizure, the person may lose awareness, but it also causes you to lose control of your bladder or your bowels.

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Night or Sleep Seizures

These types of seizure occur while you are asleep. During a sleep seizure, you may move around and make loud noise without waking up. Sometimes, you may even hurt yourself. Some people sleep talk or walk around during their sleep seizures.

You may not remember any of it the next day.

Infantile Spasms

These types of seizure are very different from all other types of seizure. They only happen in infants. They typically begin between 4 and 8 months of age. Most infantile spasms begin shortly after a fever.

The infant will initially develop slower than normal and then begin to develop normally. One or two weeks after the fever, the infant will develop seizures.

The infant may begin to have brief muscle spasms in their face, arms or legs. The spasms spread throughout the body over time. The infant may also develop other types of seizure.

Children who have infantile spasms also have other problems. These may include developmental delays, mental retardation, inability to control their emotions and difficulty with hand-eye coordination.

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Infantile spasms do not tend to last longer than 18 months. After they disappear, the child will likely have normal development. A few children may have learning problems or slight changes in personality.

What are the causes of seizures?

The causes of seizures are usually clear cut. Seizures can be caused by conditions such as strokes, brain tumors or a number of degenerative diseases.

Seizures are also a symptom of a wide number of other conditions. This can include poisoning, low oxygen levels, low blood sugar, drug withdrawal or brain infection.

Seizures can also be caused by head injuries. Any head injury can cause a seizure. A minor head injury, such as a mild concussion, may not cause a seizure. The seriousness of the head injury, the location of the head injury and your age can all play a role.

In some cases, a minor head injury will not cause a seizure while a more serious injury will.

A minor head injury can trigger a seizure in a young child, even though the injury itself may be very minor. In young children, any injury to the brain should be taken very seriously. It is also important to remember that a child under one year of age is considered to be a young child.

The seriousness of the injury is often related to the amount of bleeding in the brain. A CT scan or MRI can be used to diagnose a head injury. These tests can also show how severe the bleeding in the brain is. Other tests, such as a spinal tap, may also help diagnose the extent of the injury.

Blood tests can show if you are having a reaction to certain medication. It can also help to determine if there is any internal bleeding. A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, can be used to collect samples of the fluid around your brain and spine. This test can help your health care provider diagnose bleeding in the brain.

How are seizures treated?

Seizures themselves are not treated. The symptoms of a seizure are treated. If you have a seizure in the hospital, you will be watched closely. You will be hooked up to an EEG machine. An EEG records the electrical activity in your brain. An abnormal reading may lead to a CT scan of your brain. This is typically only done for adults.

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If you have a single seizure, there is no treatment necessary. Your doctor may recommend that you change your medication dosage or try a different medication. If you have a seizure while you are pregnant, your doctor may try to control your seizures with medication. This is because the risk of birth defects from anticonvulsant medications tends to be low compared to the benefits.

Your doctor may ask you to monitor how often you have seizures. You may be asked to count the number of seizures you have each day, or record when you have a seizure. We will go over this in the next section.

Types of Seizures:

Generalized Seizures:

These are the most common type of seizure. They affect both the body and the mind. The loss of consciousness that happens with this type of seizure makes it very obvious that a person is having a seizure. It also makes them very easy to identify.

The most common cause of a generalized seizure is epilepsy. It can be caused by a number of factors including low blood sugar or low oxygen levels. These types of seizures are also a symptom of a number of medical problems including head injuries, low blood sugar, drug use and more.

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It is important to get any type of seizure checked out by a doctor. It is also important to note the type of seizure you are having, when it happens and what happens before and after the seizure. This information will be helpful when talking to your health care provider.

Localized Seizures:

A localized seizure only affects a smaller part of the body. It does not cause a loss of consciousness. Instead, one area of the body begins to jerk involuntarily. In most cases, the person will continue to be aware of their surroundings.

The most common type of localized seizure is called a focal seizure. It only affects one part of the brain. The other parts of the brain are able to continue functioning as they normally would. A focal seizure may cause strange sensations or emotions.

These seizures tend to last longer than a generalized seizure.

A focal seizure can also cause a person to have a tonic-clonic seizure. While the seizure is taking place, the person will not be able to communicate or respond to their surroundings.

What is status epilepticus and how is it treated?

This is a condition in which a person has multiple prolonged seizures without regaining consciousness in between. This may last hours, even a day or longer. In most cases, the person will begin to have constant seizures until the condition is stopped.

The most common cause of this is Epilepsy. Alcohol withdrawal, drug use, low blood sugar and brain tumors are also common causes.

Emergency treatment for status epilepticus includes putting the person in a medically-induced coma while the seizures are stopped with medication. In cases of prolonged seizures without regaining consciousness in between, a breathing tube may be placed in the patient’s airway to keep them alive.

How is epilepsy treated?

Treatment for epilepsy is handled on a case-by-case basis. There is no one treatment that will help everyone with the condition. A person will work with their doctor to come up with a treatment plan that is right for them.

There are a few options that are tried first when it comes to treating epilepsy.

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Seizure medications come in a few different forms. Some medications need to be taken regularly, while others are taken as needed. A person may need to try a few medications before they find one that works for them.

In some cases, a person may take more than one type of medication at a time. It is important to take all of the medication as prescribed and never change the dose unless advised by a doctor.

Some of the most commonly prescribed seizure medications are:

Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, Tegretol)

Diazepam (Valium)

Lamotrigine (Lamictal)

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Levetiracetam (Keppra)

Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)

Phenytoin (Dilantin)

Pregabalin (Lyrica)

Vigabatrin (Sabril)

Zonisamide (Zonegran)

Some of these drugs can have side effects. These side effects can include difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, nausea and stomach pain.


Some people with epilepsy are able to have a surgery that helps to prevent their seizures from happening. Epilepsy surgery can be an effective treatment if the person’s seizures are coming from one area of the brain.

The type of surgery that would be needed would depend on where the seizures are coming from.

Sources & references used in this article:

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