Most people with epilepsy have more than one type of seizure over the course of their illness. Accurate seizure diagnosis is necessary in order to achieve the best epilepsy treatment. The Emory Epilepsy Center treats the following conditions:

Epileptic Seizures

Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal and excessive rhythmic electrical discharges of brain cells. When only a small area of the cortex (higher part of the human brain) is involved in generating the seizures, it is termed "partial onset." When the entire cortex is involved from the beginning of the seizures, it is termed "generalized onset."

Generalized Seizures

Generalized Seizures involve the whole brain and include types of seizures such as:

  • Absence Seizures (previously called “petit mal”) do not cause complete unconsciousness, but symptoms may include staring into space, facial twitches, eye blinking and repetitive movements. Children who have these seizures are often thought to be daydreaming. These seizures begin and end abruptly and may only last a few seconds. 
  • Myoclonic Seizures are sudden muscle twitches or jerks that are very brief.
  • Atonic Seizures (also known as drop attacks) are brief and involve losing muscle strength and often result in falling to the ground. 
  • Tonic-clonic Seizures (previously called “grand mal”) Involve complete loss of consciousness and stiffening and jerking movements of the entire body. These are more severe in nature. 

Partial Seizures

Partial Seizures begin from one part of the brain and include types of seizures such as:

  • Simple Partial Seizures may include symptoms like jerking or tingling of an arm or leg, nausea, déjà vu, or other abnormal sensations. These symptoms tend to be the same each time.
  • Complex Partial Seizures may cause the person to be in an "otherworldly" state, fluttering in and out of consciousness. They often start with a simple partial seizure but do not have to. Other symptoms include abnormal sensations, inappropriate emotions and random actions.

Non-epileptic Seizures

Non-epileptic seizures can be caused by impaired blood flow to the brain, sleep disorders, psychological conflicts, and various other brain disturbances. Non-epileptic seizures are not caused by abnormal electrical discharges of brain cells like epileptic seizures. For many patients, epileptic seizures and non-epileptic seizures cause the same types of feelings, movements and other behaviors, but EEG recordings can distinguish epileptic from non-epileptic seizures.

Some patients have a combination of epileptic seizures and non-epileptic seizures. Video-EEG monitoring can be used to show which seizures should be treated with epilepsy medications, and which seizures are non-epileptic and require a different form of treatment.

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