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Brain & Nervous System

Epilepsy Symptoms, Signs and Complications

Symptoms of Epilepsy Though seizures are the major signs and epilepsy symptom of all kinds of epilepsy, the full scope of epilepsy signs as well as signs varies. Common signs and symptoms include muscle mass jerking and also contractions, quick loss of awareness or awareness, weakness, stress and anxiety, as well as gazing.1 Nonetheless, the details symptoms you have rely on your type of epilepsy. Despite the fact that there are several sorts of seizures, your own will generally be similar each time they take place.



Symptoms of Epilepsy Though seizures are the major signs and epilepsy symptom of all kinds of epilepsy, the full scope of epilepsy signs as well as signs varies. Common signs and symptoms include muscle mass jerking and also contractions, quick loss of awareness or awareness, weakness, stress and anxiety, as well as gazing.1 Nonetheless, the details symptoms you have rely on your type of epilepsy. Despite the fact that there are several sorts of seizures, your own will generally be similar each time they take place.

Frequent Symptoms

If you have epilepsy, you might experience a selection of signs and symptoms in the past, throughout, or after a seizure. Not everyone has all of these signs and symptoms, as well as again, the ones that you experience will rely on the kind of seizures you’re having.

While recognizing the signs of your seizures is very important, many people experiencing epilepsy do not remember their seizures or what was happening prior to they took place.

It is very important to ask any person who has seen among your seizures how it offered and also what was taking place at the time. If you fit doing so, you may also consider welcoming that individual to speak with your medical professional straight.

The most common signs include:


  • Contraction and jerking of muscles: When people think of seizures, they usually think of the type in which multiple muscles in the body contract and jerk. However, involuntary muscle contractions can also occur in isolated areas of your body.1
  • Loss of consciousness: Some seizures may cause a loss of consciousness or awareness that occurs suddenly and can last for a few seconds to hours. With some seizure types, this may be the only sign of a seizure that’s visible to others. This may be associated with automatisms—purposeless and repetitive movements done without thought.
  • Weakness: Weakness can occur in any area of your body. For instance, you may have weakness in one arm, one leg, or both. Usually, you will have weakness in the same part of the body with recurrent seizures. Weakness in one part of the body may look very much like a stroke, but it resolves when the seizure is over. However, strokes can sometimes cause seizures, so it’s not always possible to know the cause of this symptom right away.2
  • Anxiety: Before a seizure, often a focal seizure, some people feel anxious. This can be its own symptom and/or a signal that a seizure is about to occur (i.e., aura). Some people experience intense anxiety, fear, or a sense of impending doom.
  • Staring: Staring into space is a symptom when you have absence seizures.1 You may appear to be briefly daydreaming or lost in thought when, in fact, you’re actually experiencing a seizure.

Some symptoms, including automatisms and aura, can help identify on which side of the brain the seizures originate and possibly even the type of epilepsy.


The sort of automatism and also the nature of it– whether it’s intricate or so basic that it might be missed out on– is highly variable. In epilepsy, automatisms may occur in focal damaged understanding seizures, in addition to absence seizures (irregular ones, particularly). People have a tendency to have the very same automatism over and over, however it may not exist in all of their seizures.

Some automatisms are most likely in specific sorts of seizures. As an example, pelvic propelling and also bilateral leg automatisms, like pedaling or cycling activities, are much more usual in frontal lobe epilepsy than temporal lobe epilepsy. Automatisms of the mouth as well as hands, on the other hand, are a lot more typical in temporal lobe epilepsy.3.

Automatisms can also provide ideas for establishing whether a seizure is happening on the best or left side of your brain. For instance, automatisms that happen on one side of your body normally suggest that the seizure began on that exact same side of your mind.4.

People that witness your seizures may have crucial observations, including what automatisms you might be having. The existence or absence and also type of automatisms might assist your medical professional identify the place as well as type of your seizures.



An epileptic aura is a distinct understanding– either visual, electric motor, sensory, or mental– that you navigate the time a seizure happens. Sometimes, a mood may arise only seconds before the seizure, however it likewise can come as high as a hr prior to.5.

In people with focal epilepsy, moods might be a very early indication since they usually occur less than 2 mins prior to seizures that cause loss of awareness.

In some cases, auras occur with no other seizure signs and symptoms. In these cases, the mood is the seizure.

You may experience any one of the many different types of moods, either alone or before a seizure. These can be broken down into sensory auras, in which only a sensation is present, and also experiential auras, which are much more intricate.


Types of auras include:

    • Vision (visual): Visual auras can be simple, such as seeing bright flashes of light, dark spots, or tunnel vision, or they can be complex or experiential, such as blindness, visual hallucinations, illusions, and distorted scenery like macropsia, where everything surrounding you seems larger than normal.
    • Smell (olfactory): Certain smells, often unpleasant, may be experienced with an aura.
    • Hearing (auditory): Like visual auras, hearing auras can be simple, such as hearing a ringing or buzzing, or complex (experiential), like hearing distorted sounds or voices speaking.
    • Somatosensory: These auras involve sensation and can be quite varied, including tingling sensations, a feeling of moving even while you’re sitting still, or a need to move.
    • Taste (gustatory): Abnormal tastes (e.g., metallic) or those that are present without eating food may occur.
    • Abdominal: Nausea, stomach upset, or stomach pressure is a fairly common aura with temporal lobe seizures.
    • Motor: Repetitive movements or a limb or weakness may occur.
    • Autonomic: Auras involving cold shivers and goosebumps, for example, may occur.
    • Psychic: These auras can be very dramatic and may include a sudden sense of fear, a sense of impending doom, déjà vu experiences, and the like.

    Auras vary significantly from person to person but are typically about the very same from seizure to seizure. Some auras are simple for individuals to describe, such as seeing zig-zag lines, while others are a lot more hard to clarify, such as a sensation of being divided from your body.

    While these are the symptoms most often associated with epilepsy, an entire host of signs and symptoms might be because of abnormal neuronal shooting in the brain, and a few of them are especially hard to set apart from behavior as well as mental health and wellness disorders.

    From unusual thoughts to hearing and also seeing points that aren’t present to signs and symptoms of duplicated flatulence and vomiting (stomach epilepsy), the skies is basically the limit in regards to symptoms. That is why it’s important to note anything you observe previously, throughout, or after a seizure.

    Symptoms By Type: Generalized

    Generalized seizures involve both sides of your mind. 6 various kinds have been specified, as well as each includes its own set of symptoms.


    Absence Seizures

    Previously called petit mal seizures, lack seizures may not constantly be acknowledged as seizures in the beginning and also they’re most typical in children.6.

    Symptoms, which last for around 10 seconds, include:.

    • Unexpected stopping of activity.
    • Appearing to blankly look right into area.
    • Automatisms like lip smacking, chewing, or eye fluttering.

    While less common, atypical absence seizures can take place. These seizures:

    • Last longer than 10 seconds
    • Start and stop gradually rather than abruptly6
    • Are more likely to cause falling
    • May include automatisms such as blinking, eye fluttering, lip smacking, chewing movements, rubbing fingers together, or other repetitive hand motions

    Tonic Seizures

    Tonic seizures happen most often during sleep.7 Symptoms include:

    • Muscles in the arms, legs, and back suddenly stiffening
    • Typical duration of 20 seconds or less
    • Possible loss of consciousness and falling

    Atonic Seizures

    These seizures are nicknamed “drop seizures” and they’re the opposite of tonic seizures. When they occur:

    • Muscles become limp.
    • The entire body or just the head, neck, and trunk may be affected.
    • You may collapse, if standing.
    • There may be some loss of awareness.

    Because of the likelihood of falling, the injury risk is high with this type of epilepsy.8 You may need to wear protective gear for your head.

    Myoclonic Seizures 

    These can occur one after another in a short period of time or just here and there. These seizures:

    • Cause short jerks of your arms or legs
    • Are typically on both sides of your body9
    • Last just a second or two

    Clonic Seizures

    Clonic seizures are similar to myoclonic seizures, though they can last from a few seconds to a minute. They involve:

    • Repetitive short jerks of your arms or legs
    • Both sides of the body (some cases)

    Clonic seizures by themselves are rare and usually occur in infants.10

    Tonic-Clonic Seizures

    These seizures, formerly called grand mal seizures, have a specific course of events. The can last up to three minutes and involve:


    • Loss of consciousness, which usually comes on quite suddenly
    • Tonic phase: muscles in arms, legs, back, and chest become stiff
    • Clonic phase: jerking and twitching muscles

    As your body starts to relax and you slowly regain consciousness, you may lose control of your bladder and/or bowels.11 You may awaken feeling sleepy, confused, irritable, or depressed.

    Symptoms By Type: Focal

    Focal seizures are the most common type of epileptic seizure. They involve just one area or one side of your brain. They come in two forms.

    Focal Aware Seizures

    This type of seizure is also commonly referred to as an aura. During a focal aware seizure:

    • You’re awake and aware.
    • You may not be able to respond.
    • You may have muscle jerking, stiffening, limpness, or other symptoms.

    The duration can be just a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

    Focal Impaired Awareness Seizures

    This type of seizure involves numerous symptoms, which vary depending on the area of the brain where they occur. Symptoms, which can last a minute or two, may include:

    • Unawareness or loss of consciousness
    • Preceding aura or focal aware seizure (possible)
    • Automatisms including repetitive tapping; rapid blinking; repeating words or phrases; grunting; repetitive hand movements; picking or fumbling at clothes or objects; lip smacking, chewing, mumbling, swallowing; complex acts like shuffling cards; dramatic acts like laughing, crying, screaming, or removing clothes

    Complications/Sub-Group Indications

    There are potential complications of seizures depending on when and where you have them. These can include:


    • Drowning: The risk of drowning while swimming or taking a bath is 15 to 19 times higher when you have epilepsy because of the potential of having a seizure while in the water. This risk goes down the longer you go between seizures.
    • Falls: Having a seizure can result in hitting your head, breaking a bone, or otherwise injuring yourself from falling.12
    • Car accidents: Having a seizure while driving can cause a car accident, which is why many states have driving restrictions and time requirements related to how long you’ve been seizure-free. As with the risk of drowning, your risk of having a seizure while driving decreases as the amount of time between seizures increases.
    • Emotional issues: Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common in people with epilepsy. An estimated one out of every three people who have epilepsy will develop clinical depression at some point in their lives, which is often accompanied by an anxiety disorder. Treatment for these issues, however, can help.

    Life-threatening complications of epilepsy don’t happen often, but include:

    • Status epilepticus: This is when you have a seizure that lasts for more than five minutes or you repeatedly have seizures without completely waking up in between. This condition can result in brain damage or death.13
    • Sudden, unexpected death: This occurs in around .1 percent of people with epilepsy and no one knows the exact cause.14 You may be at higher risk of sudden unexpected death if your seizures aren’t controlled by medications or you have frequent tonic-clonic seizures.

    Women With Epilepsy

    Ladies with epilepsy deal with some special factors to consider concerning menstruation, birth control, as well as pregnancy, given that hormonal changes can influence seizure activity. Especially, physicians believe estrogen may heighten seizure task, while progesterone seems to have the opposite impact.


    Throughout adolescence, a female’s body makes estrogen and progesterone. As a result of this rise in hormones, ladies with epilepsy might see an increase in the regularity of their seizures now in their development.

    Some women may likewise experience a boost in the frequency of their seizures around their menstruation period. Called catamenial epilepsy, seizures happening around a female’s menstruation might need added monitoring. Medical professionals think that the effects of estrogen and progesterone on the brain bring about this rise in seizure frequency.

    Contraception Use


    Some epilepsy drugs might neutralize the impacts of contraceptive pills, meaning you might obtain pregnant even if you’re taking them.16 Conversely, oral contraceptive pills might lower the efficiency of your anti-seizure medication, which can create development seizures. This is particularly real with Lamictal (lamotrigine).

    The body of every woman with epilepsy responds in a different way to pregnancy. Many ladies have the very same variety of seizures during pregnancy as they did in the past, though some may have less or more.

    Seizures while pregnant threaten for your infant and also can cause losing the unborn baby, preterm labor, and premature birth, so it is essential to keep them as controlled as feasible.17 Talk to your medical professional if you are or plan to be expectant, as your medicine might need to be readjusted both to suppress seizures and also protect your infant.

    Your physician might also advise that you take a high dose of folic acid, which assists avoid fetal brain as well as spinal cord irregularities, a number of months before you plan to obtain pregnant because some anti-seizure drugs can affect exactly how your body metabolizes this vitamin.


    Seizures don’t usually occur throughout labor, so you should have the ability to supply your infant generally as well as without problems. If you do have a seizure while you remain in labor, your physician might try to quit it with intravenous medication. For ladies who have regular seizures during pregnancy, particularly in the last trimester, a C-section may be advised, yet your physician will certainly discuss the best delivery techniques for you.

    If you want to breastfeed your child, talk to your physician. Nursing should not be a trouble, yet your physician may intend to switch your medicine or have you take it at a different time than you typically do.

    If you have epilepsy, the threat of your youngster creating epilepsy raises a percentage, to about 5 percent. If you have epilepsy, the threat of your kid developing epilepsy increases a small amount, to about 5 percent.

    If your epilepsy has a genetic or inherited part, the threat is higher. You can talk with a hereditary therapist if you’re bothered with passing epilepsy on to your child.


    When to See a Doctor

    Experiencing a seizure for the first time suggests you need to see your medical professional, even if you’re uncertain it was a seizure. He or she will certainly need to establish the reason as well as rule out any kind of hidden medical problems, along with possibly start you on anti-seizure medicine. Utilize our Doctor Conversation Guide below to assist you start that discussion with your doctor.

    If you have actually currently been diagnosed with epilepsy, you should see your medical professional any time you have a modification in your seizure patterns, frequency, or activity.

    The objective of treatment is to get your seizures in control with the least quantity of drug feasible, so you may need a dosage adjustment, another medicine added, a button to an additional kind, or a various sort of therapy completely.

    If you experience condition epilepticus, you need emergency assistance, as it can be serious. You likewise need emergency situation help if you:


    • Have a seizure and you’re pregnant
    • Have a seizure in water
    • Don’t wake up after a seizure
    • Have another seizure right away
    • Have a high fever
    • Have diabetes
    • Have injured yourself during a seizure

    Symptoms of epilepsy can disrupt your life, yet you have a great deal of therapy options that may help in reducing the effect or eliminate it totally. Keep the lines of interaction with your doctor open so you can locate the therapies that work best for maintaining your epilepsy in control.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can epilepsy suddenly develop?

    Yes, epilepsy can occur in any individual at any type of age, however it most often appears in children prior to age 1 and then prices slowly dip until around age 10. New situations increase again in people 55 and also older.18.

    How common is epilepsy?

    According to the CDC, regarding 5.1 million people in the U.S. have a history of epilepsy as well as 3.4 million have active epilepsy, making this problem very usual.19.

    How is epilepsy treated?

    Epilepsy is normally treated with anti-seizure drug, or occasionally surgical procedure if the area of the brain in charge of seizures can be isolated and also eliminated. There are also some different treatments when drug as well as surgical treatment do not work. These consist of vagus nerve excitement, where an implanted device sends out electrical current to a nerve in the neck to manage seizures, and also the ketogenic diet plan, which might help manage seizures.19.


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