The warning signs of epilepsy are different for everyone, but some of the commonly reported symptoms are:
- Prodrome (early signs):
- Odd feelings
- Confusion or feeling fuzzy
- Mood swings
- Unable to concentrate
- Aura (late signs): A feeling before the onset of partial seizures
- A feeling of deja vu (feeling like you are experiencing something that has occurred before)
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Unusual smells, tastes, sounds, or sensations
- Unable to speak
- Jerky movements of arms and legs
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Tingling sensation like pins and needles
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy, also called seizure disorder, is a group of neurological conditions characterized by recurrent seizure episodes.
A seizure is a strong surge in the electrical activity of the brain. When a person suffers from two or more unprovoked seizures, they are diagnosed with epilepsy.
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and can affect people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
A seizure can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and could be triggered by certain factors, such as:
What are the different types of epilepsy?
Seizures are classified into two main groups, including:
- Generalized seizures: Affects widespread areas throughout the brain.
- Tonic: Associated with muscle stiffness or rigidity.
- Clonic: Associated with repeated, rhythmic, and jerky muscle movements.
- Tonic-clonic: Also called grand mal seizures. The person loses consciousness and collapses. There are generalized tonic and clonic movements of the body.
- Myoclonic: Sudden brief jerks or twitches.
- Atonic: Also called drop seizures because the person falls due to loss of muscle tone.
- Absence seizures: Typically occur in children, also called petit mal seizures.
- Focal seizures: Also called partial seizures, they affect a localized area of the brain.
- Simple: Person is aware and conscious.
- Complex: Impaired consciousness.
What should I do if I notice warning signs of epilepsy?
Most seizure episodes stop on their own and cause minimal concerns.
If you experience warning signs, the following tips may help to get through the episode safely:
- Get to a safe place and alert someone about the condition.
- Do not put anything in the mouth.
- Do not drive, swim, or cook.
- Loosen tight clothing around the neck or head for comfortable breathing.
- Follow the seizure action plan (using a vagus nerve stimulator magnet, medicine, or other interventions when seizures occur).
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection to see examples of MRI brain scans, PET scans, and other imaging techniques used to diagnose and treat brain disorders See Images
What causes epilepsy?
Seizures are unpredictable, episodic, and stereotypic (similar symptoms in every episode) and can be caused by various conditions, including:
- Brain tumors
- Brain infections
- Traumatic brain or head injury
- Injury at the time of birth
- Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome
- Other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
- Low blood sugar
- Idiopathic (unknown)
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Epilepsy can be diagnosed based on physical symptoms, medical history, and certain diagnostic tests.
- A thorough neurological examination
- Electroencephalogram, a procedure to check the brain's electrical activity
- Blood test to check blood sugar, electrolytes, and other substances
- Imaging tests of the brain, such as magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scan
- Lumbar puncture to measure the pressure in the brain
Is there a cure for epilepsy?
Currently, there is no complete cure available for epilepsy. However, a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the nervous system) will be able to diagnose and provide treatments and therapies, such as medications, antiseizure devices, dietary changes, and surgery, to help the patient live a seizure-free life.
The most common treatments for epilepsy include:
- Medications: Antiepileptic drugs are helpful to limit the spread and frequency of seizure episodes.
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the affected part of the brain may help stop further episodes.
- Other treatments: When medicines fail to improve the condition and surgery is not the option, the following are used
- Vagus nerve stimulation (An electrical device is implanted under the skin on the upper chest to send signals to the vagus nerve in the neck.)
- Low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet
- U.S. Tuberculosis Cases Rose in 2022: CDC
- Kids With Autism Face Higher Odds of Vision Issues, But Many Don't Get Screened
- 1 in Every 36 U.S. 8-Year-Olds Has Autism
- Close Bond With Your Teen Can Keep Them Physically Healthy, Too: Study
- Weaker Bones, Weakening Brain? Study Makes the Connection
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
CURE Epilepsy. What is epilepsy. https://www.cureepilepsy.org/for-patients/what-is-and-what-causes-epilepsy/
Epilepsy Foundation Oregon. What is epilepsy. https://epilepsyoregon.org/what-is-epilepsy/
DiLonardo MJ. What is a seizure with aura. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/seizure-with-aura
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Evaluation of a first time seizure. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/evaluation-of-a-firsttime-seizure
Top What Are the Warning Signs of Epilepsy Related Articles
Seizures QuizDo you know the difference between seizures and epilepsy? What are the types of seizures? Take the Epilepsy & Seizures Quiz to test your knowledge and learn about this complex disorder of the brain.
Epilepsy TreatmentEpileptic seizures mostly controlled through drug therapy, particularly anticonvulsant drugs. Types of treatment prescribed depends on several factors including the frequency and severity of the seizures as well as the person's age, overall health and medical history. Other forms of treatment options also exist including ketogenic diet and electrical stimulation.
What Is the First Aid for Seizures?Some seizures are caused by brain diseases, tumors, genetic conditions, or other illnesses or disorders that can be diagnosed (symptomatic seizures). When the cause for the seizures is unknown, they are referred to as idiopathic or cryptogenic seizures. If a person has a seizure, loosen the clothing around his/her neck and remove sharp objects around the person to prevent injury. After the seizure, lay the person on his/her side to maintain an open airway. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes or if the person cannot be awakened after the seizure, call 911. Learn common seizure triggers, including foods or medications, hormones, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, or sensitivity to light.
How Do You Stop Multiple Seizures?Seizures are a medical emergency. Whether the seizure is a first-time onset or a recurring episode, it is advisable to dial 911 and call for help. A group of drugs called benzodiazepines is usually administered to stop multiple seizures.
Pediatric Epilepsy SurgeryThere are many different brain disorders associated with epilepsy in children including congenital or acquired. There are three types of pediatric epilepsy surgery:
- resective epilepsy surgery,
- corpus callosotomy, and
- vagus nerve stimulation.
Seizure (Epilepsy)Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
Seizures Symptoms and TypesSeizures are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the brain, while partial seizures are produced by electrical impulses in a small part of the brain. Seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) for Seizures
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a technique used to treat epilepsy. It involves implanting a pacemaker-like device that generates pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves, the paired nerves that attach to the undersurface of the brain and relay information to and from the brain.
Can a Person With Epilepsy Live a Normal Life?Can a person with epilepsy live a normal life? What is epilepsy and what causes it? Learn the signs and symptoms of epilepsy, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
What Are the Risks of Epilepsy Surgery?Epilepsy surgery comes with the risk of tissue and nerve damage, meningitis infection, cerebrospinal fluid leakage, among others specific to each procedure. Epilepsy surgery is a neurosurgical procedure to prevent or reduce the occurrence of epileptic seizures. Epilepsy surgery involves removal or surgical alteration of the part of the brain which is the focal point for onset of seizures.
What Is a Cluster Seizure?Cluster seizures are episodes of increased seizure activity in which two or more seizures occur in 24 hours. Multiple seizures occur one after the other typically with a recovery period between each seizure and are different from a person’s usual seizure pattern.