What are the signs and symptoms of epilepsy?

What are the signs and symptoms of epilepsy?

Signs and symptoms of epilepsy and seizures

The brain has an influence on the function of every part of the body. Seizures brought on by this condition can affect any functional process that the brain helps coordinate. Like triggers, symptoms will vary from one epileptic sufferer to another. Typically, a person will experience a similar set of triggers and symptoms (depending on their condition type classification) each time they experience a seizure.

Common symptoms among all seizure types include:

  • Confusion (temporary)
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness
  • A staring spell
  • Jerking movements or convulsions (without a fever) in the arms and legs (these are uncontrollable)

Partial / focal seizures without a loss of consciousness may cause a person to experience changes in their vision, how things smell, feel, taste or sound just before an incident. They may notice a change in emotion (suddenly become fearful, panicked or angry for no apparent reason) and experience spontaneous sensory symptoms, such as dizziness, tingling and seeing flashing lights. A seizure will bring on uncontrollable or involuntary movements and jerking of the body (often the arms or legs).

A more complex partial or focal seizure (known as focal dyscognitive seizures) causes a loss of awareness or consciousness, staring, unresponsiveness, repetitive movements (such as hand rubbing, walking in circles, chewing or swallowing).

It is not uncommon for symptoms of partial or focal seizures to be misinterpreted as another type of neurological disorder, such as mental illness, migraine or even narcolepsy. In any instance, these sorts of symptoms should always be assessed, tested and diagnosed by an appropriate medical professional.

Generalised seizures cause the following types of symptoms and experiences:

  • Absence seizures: Staring into space, subtle body movements (blinking of the eyes or even lip smacking), lack of awareness.
  • Tonic seizures: Muscle stiffening, mostly in the arms, legs and back, which causes a person to collapse without warning.
  • Atonic seizures: Loss of muscle control, which can also cause a sudden collapse.
  • Clonic seizures: Repetitive or rhythmic muscle movements (jerking), commonly noted in the neck, face and arms.
  • Myoclonic seizures: Sudden, but brief twitching movements or jerks in the arms and legs.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures: An abrupt or sudden loss of consciousness, body shaking and stiffening, tongue biting and loss of bladder or bowel control.

Following a seizure, a person may feel slightly ill and extremely tired, as well as feel temporarily confused (confused memory) or dazed and struggle to communicate clearly.

If a person experiences a seizure that lasts for longer than 5 minutes, does not regain consciousness after the seizure, is not breathing during or after the seizure, has a high fever, experiences a second seizure immediately after the first one, shows signs of heat exhaustion, is diabetic or pregnant, immediate medical attention is required for emergency intervention and treatment.

Injuries sustained during a seizure may also require prompt medical treatment. Any seizure experienced should be reported to your medical professional and your condition carefully monitored.

PREVIOUS Epilepsy causes, types and triggers
NEXT Risk factors for epilepsy and potential complications