What is a Seizure Disorder?

Epilepsy & Seizures | Know What To Do! Infographic

People have seizures when their brain cells send out abnormal signals via electrical impulses. When this happens on a recurring basis, it is called epilepsy. Epilepsy is a seizure disorder more common in adults but also found in children. Some children outgrow their epilepsy, while others live with this disorder their entire lives. 

Seizures may be partial or generalized. Partial seizures are broken down into two categories: simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures:

  1. Simple partial seizures – With the simple version, people do not lose consciousness. They experience muscle twitching, most often in the limbs, as well as vision changes, vertigo, and a sensation of abnormal tastes and smells.
  2. Complex partial seizures – With complex partial seizures, people lose consciousness or awareness, may take on a blank stare, may behave unusually (i.e.: engaging in repetitive actions), and may exhibit symptoms common with simple partial seizures as well.

Whereas simple seizures impact only part of the brain, generalized seizures affect all or most of it. These seizures include the following:

  1. Absence seizures (also called petit mal) – During absence seizures, people stare off and lose awareness or lose consciousness briefly.
  2. Myoclonic seizures – In these cases, people experience involuntary muscle twitching and movement on both sides.
  3. Tonic-clonic seizures (also called grand mal) – In these cases, people can experience loss of consciousness, involuntary twitching, jerking, or shaking, loss of bladder control, or all of the above. With a grand mal seizure, people may experience an odd sensation just prior to the seizure that lets them know it is coming on. These seizures can last anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

If you have a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy, it is important that the people around you on a regular basis know about your condition and how to manage it so that in the event of a seizure, they know what is happening and what to do for you. However, we cannot always be surrounded by informed friends and family, so it is important that people with epilepsy or a history of seizures wear medical ID necklaces or medical alert bracelets to let Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and ER personnel know that the seizure they’re seeing is a known problem, not a new symptom. This helps medical personnel rule out head injuries and other problems and enables them to offer faster, more accurate treatment.


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