Epilepsy is a condition that results in spontaneous, recurrent seizures. It can occur as a single condition or be associated with other neurological disorders. Epileptic seizures may cause changes in sensation (taste, sight, smell, vision, hearing) or motor function (tremors, muscle spasms, rigidity, loss of balance). Behavioral symptoms range from staring episodes to unconsciousness.
More than 30 types of epileptic seizures exist. The type of seizure a person experiences depends on where the seizure originates in the brain. A partial seizure occurs when there are abnormal electrical impulses in one area of the brain. During this type of seizure, a portion of the body may jerk, become rigid, or experience involuntary sensory changes. In complex partial seizures, the individual also may become confused, dazed, and exhibit unusual behavior. After the seizure, the person has no memory of the event.
General epileptic seizures occur when electrical impulses "storm" or spread through the brain. This type of seizure causes changes levels of in consciousness. Some individuals develop a blank stare while others develop a tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure that causes a complete loss of consciousness with convulsions. After the seizure, the person has no memory of the event and may seem dazed, weak, tired, and confused.
Many people experience an aura before a seizure. An aura can include a change in taste, vision, or hearing and may cause the person to suddenly hear a distinct sound, to smell an odor, or to feel unusual. An aura actually can be helpful to someone with epilepsy. Because an aura is a warning that a seizure is imminent, it allows individuals to prepare themselves to prevent an injury.
For more information on the Epilepsy Center, please call 1-800-BARROW1 (227-7691) or 602-406-6281.