Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy, but having a single seizure does not necessarily mean a person has epilepsy. High fever, severe head injury, lack of oxygen — a number of factors can affect the brain enough to cause a single seizure.
Epilepsy, on the other hand, is an underlying condition that affects the delicate systems that govern how electrical energy behaves in the brain, making it susceptible to recurring seizures.
The nature and degree of epilepsy symptoms vary depending upon the type of seizure. Some seizures end with a loss of consciousness, others do not. Generally speaking, there are two major categories of epilepsy symptoms: partial seizures and generalized seizures. Partial or Focal Seizures
Focal seizures, also called partial seizures, occur in just one part of the brain.
In a simple focal seizure, the person will remain conscious but experience unusual feelings or sensations that can take many forms. The person may experience sudden and unexplainable feelings of joy, anger, sadness or nausea. He or she also may hear, smell, taste, see or feel things that are not real.
In a complex focal seizure, the person has a change in consciousness. His or her consciousness may be altered, producing a dreamlike experience. People having a complex focal seizure may display strange, repetitious behaviors such as blinks, twitches, mouth movements or even walking in a circle. Generalized Seizures
Generalized seizures are a result of abnormal neuronal activity on both sides of the brain. These seizures may cause loss of consciousness, falls or massive muscle spasms.
There are several categories of generalized seizures. Some start with a stiffening of the limbs and then a jerking of the limbs and face. Some are more mild and can be mistaken for daydreaming and staring spells. Others may cause someone to drop to the ground.
Not all seizures can be easily defined as either focal or generalized. Some people have seizures that begin as focal seizures but then spread to the entire brain. Other people may have both types of seizures but with no clear pattern.
Learn more about:
The Sentara Epilepsy Center