If Hollywood were our only reference, we would believe that all seizures involve someone dropping to the ground, their eyes rolling up into their head, and convulsing violently. While this scenario can happen, the truth is far more complex, as seizures can take on many different forms.
At Complete Neurological Care, our experienced team has extensive experience helping patients with seizures and epilepsy. To bring more understanding and awareness to these conditions, we’re going to spend some time discussing the many ways in which seizures can present themselves.
At their core, seizures are events that occur due to an abnormal surge in electrical activity in your brain. There are two main types of seizures
- Generalized onset seizures that affect both sides of your brain
- Focal onset seizures that start in one area of your brain, though they can spread to the entire brain
No matter which type of seizure, when you have two or more, we classify it as epilepsy, which affects more than 3.4 million people in the United States.
Between 25% and 30% of seizures, though, are provoked, which means they’re the result of a specific event, such as having low blood sugar or withdrawing from alcohol. In these cases, the seizures wouldn’t typically qualify as epilepsy.
How seizures present themselves
The goal of this post is to help people better recognize seizures, so we’re going to get into the different ways in which people can respond to a seizure.
The first distinction to make is whether there’s awareness or not. If the person is aware of what’s happening, it’s called a focal onset aware seizure. If the person is confused and isn’t recognizing what’s happening, we call it a focal impaired awareness seizure.
Seizures can be broken down further in the way they manifest themselves, and these categories include:
- Clonic — muscles jerk in rhythmic movements
- Atonic — muscles becomes limp or weak
- Tonic — muscles become stiff or rigid
- Spasms — arm, leg, and head extensions
- Myoclonus — brief twitches
- Atypical absence seizure — staring
- Absence seizure — no motor symptoms
When there’s an absence of motor symptoms, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any symptoms. In many of these cases, autonomic symptoms can occur, such as drooling or a strange feeling in the stomach (gastric uprising).
As you can see, there are many different faces to seizures — from staring off into space to violent twitching and convulsing in much of the body. Drilling down even more, some people exhibit different behaviors, such as lip-smacking or hand clapping.
It’s important to notice and record any behaviors during a seizure, no matter how small, because this is valuable information for us to help identify the type of seizures and which areas of the brain might be involved.
If you have more questions about seizures or you’d like an evaluation, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, or Margate, Florida, to schedule an appointment.