Return to Index
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Epilepsy seizures are not all the same. Some can be mild and last only a minute or two. Others can cause problems that last much longer. Sudden, repeating seizures can cause harm to the heart or brain, and death if emergency care is not given right away.
There are many types of seizures. They each have their own symptoms.
Partial or Focal Seizures
These seizures start from one part of the brain. You may have:
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
- Muscle twitching on one side of a leg, arm, hand, finger, or muscle
- Sensing smells, tastes, sights, sounds, or other things that are not real
- Strange, repeating, motions or movements that you cannot control, such as chewing or smacking your lips
Partial seizures may spread from one part of the body to another. Focal seizures may spread to both sides of the brain.
Generalized Convulsive (Grand Mal) Seizures
These seizures start from both sides of the brain. You may have:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Muscle spasms or stiffening
- A sudden fall to the ground
- Strange, repeating motions or movements that you cannot control
- Biting your tongue
- A sense of a strange warning before it happens, such as the smell of burning rubber.
After it happens, you may have:
- Deep sleep, tiredness, confusion, or a change in responsiveness
- Problems remembering the seizure
General Seizures Without Convulsions
Absence seizures, also called petit mal, are more common in children. A child may have:
- A look of daydreaming
- Blinking of the eyes rhythmically
- Twitching of the face
- No memory of the seizure after it happens
There are also other types of generalized seizures without convulsions.
Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults. Updated November 9, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.
Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900174/Epilepsy-in-children. Updated March 22, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.
Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page. Updated June 18, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The epilepsies: the diagnosis and management of the epilepsies in adults and children in primary and secondary care. NICE 2012 Jan:CG137.
What happens during a seizure? Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-101/what-happens-during-seizure. Updated March 19, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2019.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 03/2019
- Update Date: 03/26/2019