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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the different types of epilepsy?

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    Established in 1952, Epilepsy Action Australia provides education and support for people with epilepsy, their families and community, and professional groups. These services promote self-management … View Profile

    There are many different types of seizures. Classification can be complicated, but basically seizures can be divided into two major groups: focal seizures and generalised seizures.
    Focal seizures
    About 60% of people with epilepsy have focal seizures (also known as partial seizures). These seizures can often be subtle or unusual, and may go unnoticed or be mistaken for anything from intoxication to daydreaming. Seizure activity starts in one area of the brain and may spread to other regions of the brain.
    These include:

    • Sensory – numbness or tingling sensation
    • Motor – jerking of a limb, twitching of face or a muscle group
    • Autonomic – blushing, paleness, fast heart rate, nausea or vomiting
    • Psychic – déjà vu, hallucinations, anxiety, fear
    • Dyscognitive – losing awareness and often not able to respond or will respond in a confused, inappropriate manner. There can be unusual or repetitive behaviours. After the seizure there may be confusion and little or no memory for the event. These seizures are short in duration, usually up to 3 minutes.    
    Generalised seizures
    Generalised seizures are the result of abnormal activity in the whole brain simultaneously. Because of this, consciousness is lost at the onset of the seizure. There are many types of generalised seizures.
    • Generalised Tonic-Clonic
    • Absence
    • Myoclonic
    • Tonic
    • Atonic
     
    *Note: Sometimes a seizure starts as a focal seizure and then becomes a generalised seizure - almost always a tonic-clonic seizure. When this occurs, the seizure is called secondarily generalised.
     
    Most people will only have one or two seizure type(s), which may vary in severity. A person with severe epilepsy or significant damage to the brain may experience several different seizure types.

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