Symptoms of Epilepsy

By  , Expert Content
Mar 04, 2013

Epilepsy is diagnosed when a person has two or more seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy (about 40 types). Seizures are the most common symptom of epilepsy. Other symptoms depend on type of epilepsy and areas of the brain that are affected. Epilepsy is classified on the basis of the type of seizures. In general, epilepsy is classified as:

  • Partial seizures—in this, only a small part of the brain are affected.
  • Generalised seizures—in this, most or all of the brain are affected.

Symptoms of Partial Seizures

The two types of partial seizure are:

  • Simple partial seizure—in this, the person remains fully conscious when the seizures occur.
  • Complex partial seizure—in this type of epilepsy, the person loses awareness and can’t remember what happened during seizure.

Some symptoms of a simple partial seizure are:

  • Changes in the way things appear, smell, feel, taste or sound.
  • Feeling of déjà vu (that the events have happened before).
  • Sensory changes such as tingling sensation or ‘pins and needles’ in your arms and legs.
  • Emotional disturbance such as fear or joy.
  • Stiffness of some muscles in your arms, legs and face or twitching on one side of your body (arms, legs and face).

Some symptoms of a complex partial seizure include:

  • Repeated smacking of lips.
  • Pointless moving or rubbing of hands or movement of legs.
  • Making random noises.
  • Fiddling with clothes or objects.
  • Taking unusual posture.
  • Repeated chewing or swallowing.

During a complex partial seizure, the person loses awareness and can’t remember what happened during seizure.

Symptoms of Generalised Seizures

In generalised seizure, the person is usually completely unconscious. There are six main types of generalised seizures and the symptoms depend on the type of seizure. Generalised tonic-clonic seizure is the most common type of generalised seizure. About 60% of all seizures caused due to epilepsy are tonic-clonic seizures.

Symptoms of Tonic-clonic Seizure

In this type of seizure, the body becomes stiff initially and then the arms and legs start to twitch in the second phase. The person loses consciousness and may even pass urine or motion. In most cases, the seizure lasts between one and three minutes, but may last longer  as well.

Symptoms of Absence Seizure

The person loses awareness of his or her surroundings for up to 20 seconds and this may happen hundreds of times in a day. It occurs most often in children and the child has no memory of the seizure. As the seizure lasts for a short period, it is difficult to diagnose and many cases remain undiagnosed.

Symptoms of Myoclonic Jerks

The arms, legs or upper body may jerk or twitch as if you have received an electric shock. They usually last for a fraction of a second and the person is conscious during this time.

Symptoms of Clonic Seizure

In this seizure also the person experiences twitching as myoclonic jerks, but they are longer in duration (normally up to two minutes) and the person may lose consciousness.

Symptoms of Atonic Seizure

During this seizure, all the muscles relax suddenly and this can cause the person to fall.

Tonic Seizure

In this seizure, all the muscles become stiff suddenly and the person may lose balance and fall over.


Many people with epilepsy have a distinctive feeling or warning sign that a seizure is going to occur. These warning signs are known as auras and some common auras that the person may have include strange smell or taste, feeling of déjà vu, experiencing a sense of fear or anxiety.


Read more articles on Epilepsy



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