Epilepsy - Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure.

Tonic-clonic Seizures

A person who is about to have a tonic-clonic seizure often has a warning. That warning is called an aura. During the aura, the patient may emit a loud cry. The attack actually begins when the person loses consciousness and falls to the ground. His or her muscles become rigid for about thirty seconds. This period is known as the tonic phase of the disorder. The muscles then alternately contract and relax, causing the patient to thrash about. This phase of the attack is known as the clonic stage. The patient may also lose control of his or her bladder or bowels, or have trouble breathing.

A tonic-clonic attack usually lasts between two and five minutes. After the attack, the patient may be confused or have trouble talking. He or she may complain of headache or muscle soreness or weakness in the arms or legs. In some cases, the patient may fall into a deep sleep.

Absence Seizure

An absence seizure is a milder form of a tonic-clonic seizure. An absence seizure usually begins with a brief loss of consciousness. This phase of the attack lasts between one and ten seconds. Patients may become very quiet. They may stare blankly, roll their eyes, or move their lips. The whole attack is usually over in fewer than twenty seconds.

After an absence seizure, patients generally do not remember anything about the event. They just continue with whatever they were doing before the attack began. They may not realize that anything unusual has taken place. In cases of absence seizures that are not treated, a patient may experience as many as one hundred attacks a day. Eventually, the condition may progress to the tonic-clonic form of epilepsy.

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