Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that produces seizures. Seizures are abnormal bursts of electrical activity that disrupt normal brain function. Seizures can range widely in frequency and severity. In many cases, epilepsy is genetically present from birth, though it can also be caused by a head injury, brain tumor or stroke.

If you're living with epilepsy, you may even experience more than one type of seizure over the course of your illness. That's why accurate diagnosis, and having a team at your side that understands your unique needs, is necessary to achieve the best treatment.

The Emory Epilepsy Center provides expert treatment for:

Epileptic Seizures

Epileptic seizures happen when abnormal electrical activity occurs in your brain. This activity can cause different symptoms depending on the type of seizure you're having, and which part of your brain is involved. 

Generalized Seizures

Generalized seizures involve the whole brain. Different types of generalized seizures include:

Absence Seizures (previously called “petit mal”) do not cause complete unconsciousness. Symptoms may include:

  • Eye blinking or fluttering
  • Staring into space

Children who have these seizures are often thought to be daydreaming. These seizures begin and end abruptly and may only last a few seconds. 

Atonic Seizures (also known as drop attacks) are often characterized by:

  • Brief duration, sometimes just a few seconds
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Sudden falls for no other reason

Clonic Seizures cause rhythmic, jerking muscle movements usually in the neck, face and arms that continue and repeat for several seconds. 

Myoclonic Seizures, while similar in appearance to clonic seizures, cause sudden muscle twitches that are usually brief. 

Tonic Seizures cause sudden, involuntary stiffening of the muscles and usually:

  • Affect muscles in your back, arms and legs on both sides of your body
  • Last several seconds of a few minutes
  • May cause you to fall to the ground

Tonic-clonic Seizures (Previously called "grand mal" seizures) are the most severe in nature. They involve:

  • A longer duration, up to several minutes
  • Complete loss of consciousness
  • Stiffening and jerking movements of the entire body
  • Confusion, headache, muscle soreness and sleepiness after the seizure

Focal Seizures 

Focal seizures begin in a specific part of the brain and can happen with or without loss of consciousness. Symptoms of focal seizures are often confused with other neurological disorders, such as migraine, narcolepsy or mental illness. Types of focal seizures include:

Focal Seizures with impaired awareness involve a change or loss of consciousness or awareness. Other symptoms can include:

  • Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety, or deja vu
  • Failing to respond normally to the environment
  • Repetitive movements, such as hand rubbing, gesturing, chewing or swallowing
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Turning of the head and eyes toward one direction

Focal Seizures without loss of consciousness don't typically impair awareness, but may: 

  • Alter mood or emotions
  • Cause involuntary jerking of a body part, such as an arm or leg
  • Change the way things look, smell, feel, taste or sound
  • Create spontaneous sensory symptoms such as tingling, dizziness and flashing lights

Non-Epileptic Spells

Not all seizure-like spells are considered epilepsy. Non-epileptic spells can be caused by impaired blood flow to your brain, sleep disorders, psychological conflicts and various other brain disturbances. While they may appear similar in terms of symptoms, non-epileptic spells are not caused by the abnormal electrical discharges of brain cells that characterize epileptic seizures. An EEG test can determine the difference, paving the way toward the most appropriate and effective course of treatment. 

Accurate Seizure Diagnosis is Key to Living Your Best Life

There are many factors that make accurate diagnosis particularly difficult. Since different seizure types can cause similar feelings, movements and other behaviors, they are often mistaken one for the other.

Fortunately, at the Emory Epilepsy Center you'll have access to the most advanced diagnostic techniques available and a skilled team of experts dedicated to your care.

How Can We Help You Today?

Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 404-778-7777. We look forward to hearing from you.