Epileptic seizures

An epileptic seizure is the body and brain's response to sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure may affect a person's muscle control, movement, speech, vision, or awareness (consciousness).

There are two types of seizures.

  • Generalized seizures begin over the entire surface of the brain and may involve the whole body. The origin of these seizures cannot be traced to a specific location in the brain. The cause of generalized seizures is presumed to be genetic. Epilepsy that causes generalized seizures is more common in children than in adults. Generalized seizures are usually treated with medications, although surgery may be helpful in some cases.
  • Partial seizures (sometimes called focal seizures) begin in a specific location in the brain. While the cause of these seizures is not always clear, they often result from severe head injury, stroke, brain tumor, brain infections, scar tissue, and other diseases that affect the brain. Partial seizures may affect awareness and only one side or part of the body or may also involve the entire body. While partial seizures commonly occur in adults with epilepsy, children can also develop them. Partial seizures are usually treated with medications, although surgery to remove the affected area of the brain or interrupt certain pathways is an option for some people.

Last Updated: October 15, 2009

Author: Monica Rhodes

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology

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