There are two groups of seizure types: Generalized (grand mal) which simply means effecting all of the brain; and Partial seizures which simply effects a small area of the brain. However, Complex Partial Seizures can lead to Generalized seizures.
Our Caleb had many types of seizures. He experienced: Absence seizures, Complex Absence Seizures, Atypical Absence Seizures, Myoclonic, Tonic, Clonic, Tonic-Clonic, Partial Seizures, Complex Partial and Frontal Lobe Seizures. There are also Atonic seizures. These all vary in appearance. Knowing what these look like can enable you to spot someone having a seizure and allow you to help them.
Absence Seizures- Individual blanks out and stares. Usually does not remember the seizure, and returns to normal awareness after the seizure. Typically last less than 20 seconds.
Complex Absence Seizure- Change in muscle activity, could be rigid or relaxed. May have rapid eye blinking. May make tasting movement of the mouth. May rub fingers together "pinching". Can last over 20 seconds.
Atypical Absence Seizures- These are particularly hard to identify in that the person can be somewhat responsive, can manipulate objects, but are not "with you". They stare off, may have eye blinking and may make tasting movements with their mouth. These may not look like abnormal behavior, especially in children with developmental delay.
Myoclonic Seizures- These are brief jerks typically involving both sides of the body in a rapid muscle contraction and relaxation. Typical areas of movement are in the arms, shoulders, neck and face. However, there are syndromes in which myoclonic seizures will precipitate Tonic-Clonic seizures. Caleb experienced this combination of seizures daily.
Tonic Seizures- These are a generalized seizure where there is complete flexion and stiffening of every muscle in the body. The arms will raise above the torso, sometimes completly over the head. Some times the contraction of the muscles push air out of the lungs with a distinct noise. If a child is awake when these occur they will fall. These usually last 20 seconds or less, however, they can last up to a minute.
Clonic Seizures- These are rhythmic movement sometimes on both sides of the body in which the muscles are contracting and relaxing that it appears in a jerking motion. The length of these seizures vary.
Tonic-Clonic Seizures- These begin with the Tonic seizure, where the body stiffens, followed by the Clonic seizure with rapid jerking. These seizures can last 1 to 3 minutes.
Atonic Seizures- These seizures are the opposite so to say of a tonic seizure. Instead of flexion, there is loss of muscle tone and the person may have their head to fall over, eyelids droop and if standing, they may fall to the ground. These are known as "drop attacks". The end result looks similar to a tonic seizure, so it is important to observe what is happening before the fall to be able to distinguish what type of seizure is taking place. These usually last around 15 to 20 seconds.
Simple Partial seizures- These vary from person to person.
- Motor Seizure, as a jerking or stiffening of a hand, finger, or foot. They may become weak on one side, or laugh.
- Sensory Seizures, where tastes, smells, visual illusions and sounds may appear that are not present. They may have pain or feel as though they are spinning.
- Autonomic Seizures which is a change in the nervous system that automatically controls body function. Symptoms can include changes in heart rate, breathing, sweating, discomfort in the chest, head or stomach.
- Psychic Seizures: These seizures change how people think, feel, or experience things. They may have problems with memory, or speech. They may suddenly feel emotions like fear, depression, or happiness without provocation.
- Temporal Lobe seizures- Alertness and awareness are changed, as with absence seizures, they can pick at their clothes in a pinching motion or have an "aura" or sense that the seizure is about to occur. Sometimes, they may scream or cry or have odd behavior. They can have memory lapses because of the seizure. The seizure can last up to 2 minutes.
- Frontal Lobe seizures- These seizures are difficult to diagnose, as many would attribute this to a psychiatric event: HOWEVER, THEY ARE NOT. Sometimes these occur in sleep, with Caleb, we saw them while he was awake. Symptoms of the seizure include:
- Head and eye movement up and to one side.
- Complete or partial unresponsiveness.
- Explosive screams or laughter.
- Abnormal body posturing, such as one arm extending while the other flexes.
- Repetitive movements, such as rocking or bicycle pedaling.
- If awake, may run frantically afterward.
People who have epilepsy need your support, encouragement and love. Make sure that you enable them as much as possible to do everything they can do and help them to be successful. One person can make a difference in the life of another, be that person.