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Seizures: Read About Symptoms and Types

Epilepsy and an overview of the types of seizures

Based on the type of behavior and brain activity, seizures are divided into two broad categories: generalized and partial (also called local or focal). Classifying the type of seizure helps physicians diagnose whether or not a patient has epilepsy.

Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the entire brain, whereas partial seizures are produced (at least initially) by electrical impulses in a relatively small part of the brain. The part of the brain generating the seizures is sometimes called the focus.

The most common types of seizures Generalized Seizures
(Produced by the entire brain) Symptoms

1. "Grand Mal" or Generalized tonic-clonic
Unconsciousness, convulsions, muscle rigidity

2. Absence
Brief loss of consciousness

3. Myoclonic
Sporadic (isolated), jerking movements

4. Clonic
Repetitive, jerking movements

5. Tonic
Muscle stiffness, rigidity

6. Atonic
Loss of muscle tone

Generalized seizures

There are six types of generalized seizures. The most common and dramatic, and therefore the most well known, is the generalized convulsion, also called the grand-mal seizure. In this type of seizure, the patient loses consciousness and usually collapses. The loss of consciousness is followed by generalized body stiffening (called the "tonic" phase of the seizure) for 30 to 60 seconds, then by violent jerking (the "clonic" phase) for 30 to 60 seconds, after which the patient goes into a deep sleep (the "postictal" or after-seizure phase). During grand-mal seizures, injuries and accidents may occur, such as tongue biting and urinary incontinence.

Nodding Syndrome Symptoms
(Nodding Disease)

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

Imagine a syndrome so unusual that it has been reported in only one small corner of the world. Nodding syndrome may be such a condition. Nodding syndrome, also referred to as nodding disease, is characterized by a nodding behavior of the head that is accompanied by convulsions, staring spells, or other manifestations of seizures….


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    Focal seizures

    Focal seizures, the third kind of partial seizure is one that begins as a focal seizure and evolves into a generalized convulsive ("grand-mal") seizure. Most patients with partial seizures have simple partial, complex partial and secondarily generalized seizures. In about two-thirds of patients with partial epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with medications. Partial seizures that cannot be treated with medications can often be treated surgically.

    Reviewed by The Cleveland Clinic Neuroscience Center.

    Edited by Edited by Joseph R Carcione, MBA, DO on February 01, 2007

    Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2004


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