Epilepsy Symptoms That Spell Trouble – The Symptoms Explained

Epilepsy is a clinical condition characterized by uncontrolled, involuntary contractions of the muscles of a part or whole of the body. Discrete neurological (brain) regions trigger fluctuations in the electrical potentials in the brain, causing repeated muscular contractions in the area controlled by that part of brain. Epilepsy symptoms are varied for different types of epilepsy.

epilepsy symptoms

Headaches are common epilepsy symptoms seen in the phase after a seizure episode.

Epilepsy Symptoms That Spell Trouble

Each type of epilepsy is characterized by a different set of symptoms. Epilepsy symptoms vary in terms of factors like the extent of the seizures (a part or the whole of the body), the duration of seizure episodes, the patient’s levels of consciousness during/after the episode, and his awareness of his surroundings during the seizures.

Epilepsy Symptoms For Certain Types Of Epilepsy

  1. Generalized Tonic-Clonic Epilepsy (Grand Mal Epilepsy)

    In this type of epilepsy, seizures begin suddenly and without warning. In some cases, individuals may report prior vague perceptions throughout the body. The phase of active seizure is known as the ictal phase, while the phase following the seizure is called the postictal phase. Here are the symptoms for each phase.

    • Tonic Phase

      Active muscle contractions (generalized) lasting for a few seconds

    • Clonic Phase

      Muscle relaxation that lasts for less than a minute

    • Postictal Phase

      • Excessive salivation
      • The involuntary passage of urine or stools
      • Strenuous breathing
      • Unresponsiveness and varying levels of consciousness for a few minutes to a few hours
      • Confusion about one’s surroundings
      • Headaches
      • Muscle pains

    The patient’s Electroencephalogram (EEG) shows progressively rising, fast and high amplitude voltage discharges in the neuronal tissue. As the patient recovers from the seizure episode, the EEG almost comes back to normal. Ictal Cry Contractions of the respiratory muscles push the air out of the lungs forcibly. At the same time, the contracting muscles of the larynx (respiratory airway opening) prevent this blast of air from coming out of the respiratory path. This process may produce a loud moan, better known as an ictal cry.


    Cyanosis is characterized by a bluish appearance of the fingertips, the tip of the nose, and the ear lobes, due to insufficient oxygen in the blood. Impaired respiratory muscle movements pull in the respiratory secretions causing impaired lung function, which ultimately leads to cyanosis.

    Tongue Bite

    When a person forcefully contracts his jaw muscles during a convulsive episode, he runs the risk of severely injuring his tongue if it gets caught in between both the jaws. If this happens, it can be very painful for him. Additional epilepsy symptoms in the case of generalized tonic-clonic seizures include a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and dilated pupils.

  2. Absence Seizures (Petit-Mal Epilepsy)

    Absence seizures usually occur among children between 4 and 8 years of age, and they are often characterized by:

    • Abrupt onset
    • A short episode of unconsciousness that lasts for a few seconds
    • Complete postural control
    • No postictal confusion
    • Frequent seizures, often even up to 100 times a day

    Sometimes, certain additional symptoms are noted, such as:

    • Repeated and rapid chewing movements
    • Rapid eye blinking
    • Rapid hand movements
  3. Atonic Epilepsy

    Here are some symptoms of atonic epilepsy:

    • A brief seizure, characterized by a nodding movement of the head or a sudden transient head drop
    • Abrupt loss of muscle tone (for about 1 to 2 seconds)
    • Impaired consciousness for some time
    • No feeling of confusion post seizures
    • In some cases, a collapse of the patient to the ground
  4. Myoclonic Epilepsy

    Myoclonus is characterized by symptoms like:

    • Abrupt contraction of the muscles of either a part or the whole of the body
    • In the case of Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy, the onset of generalized seizures in early adolescence, with single or repeating jerky movements on both sides of the body. They usually occur in the morning after the patient wakes up. Lack of adequate sleep is a precipitating factor in such cases
  5. Simple Partial Seizures

    Characteristic features of simple partial seizures are:

    • No obvious loss of consciousness
    • Sensory, motor, autonomic, or psychic symptoms
    • Repetitive flexion-extension movements of arms
    • Synchronous hand and facial movements
    • Onset of seizures in a localized part of the body (such as the fingers), which gradually progress to the whole of the part (such as the hand or the arm)

    Additional symptoms

    • Altered sensations or Paraesthesias
    • Vertigo or dizziness
    • Sweating
    • “Aura” of epilepsy – A feeling that warns about the onset of seizures
    symptoms of epilepsy

    Vertigo or dizziness is one of the symptoms of epilepsy, often seen in simple partial seizures.

    Epileptics people may experience unusual perceptions like:

    • Intense smells (e.g. the odor of burning)
    • Flashes of light
    • Different crude sounds

    These symptoms make the patient look confused and frightened.

  6. Complex Partial Seizures

    The main difference between simple and complex partial seizures is the lack of awareness of one’s surroundings that occurs during complex partial seizures. In this condition, the seizures begin in a certain part of the body, causing the person to lose contact with his surroundings. The patients does not respond to verbal communication. Typical complex partial seizures exhibit:

    • An abrupt motionless state at the onset
    • Repeated smacking lip movements and rolling movements of the hands
    • A temporary loss of memory wherein the individual cannot recollect the seizure episode after it has occurred
    • A state of confusion after the seizure episode, sometimes lasting for hours

As epilepsy can be highly disturbing for the person who has this condition as well as the people around him, it best to take the necessary measures to counter it. The best remedy is to avoid its triggers that act as causes of epilepsy in the first place by taking the necessary steps for epilepsy prevention. If you experience any of the epilepsy symptoms mentioned above, rush to the doctor immediately for epilepsy treatment.

Photosensitive Epilepsy Symptoms – Signs That Indicate An Issue

Photosensitive epilepsy is a type of epilepsy in which seizures occur as a result of exposure to flickering lights or flashes of light of varied wavelengths, colors, and patterns. Photosensitive epilepsy symptoms are similar to those seen in other types of epilepsy.

photosensitive epilepsy symptoms

Photosensitive epilepsy symptoms may be triggered by prolonged exposure to the flickering lights from television screens or video game screens.

Photosensitive Epilepsy Symptoms

Here are some characteristics of photosensitive epilepsy.

Some Basic Information About Photosensitive Epilepsy Symptoms

  • A typical case of photosensitive epilepsy can occur during something as routine as watching television or playing video games for longs hours. In such cases, the seizure episode is triggered by the light flickers in the television or gaming screen.
  • Usually, children and adolescents are affected by photosensitive epilepsy
  • Individuals with a history of exposure to bright, high contrast flickering lights before an epileptic attack are more susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.
  • In some cases of the condition, the individual may experience seizures with eyes closed and in some cases, he may experience them with open eyes. Even when the eyes are closed, external lights cannot be completely occluded. Flashes of light passing through closed eyelids can also precipitate seizures.

Some Common Photosensitive Epilepsy Symptoms

  • Muscles become stiff due to contractions
  • Epileptic cry – A loud moan, caused by a forceful burst of air from the lungs as a result of the vigorous contractions of respiratory  muscles, is known as an epileptic cry. It signifies the onset of an epileptic attack.
  • The individual may collapse of the ground (and in some cases acquire a head injury)
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Temporary loss of control over the bladder or the stools
  • A tongue injury in case the tongue is caught in between the jaws during the seizure

An Important Warning Sign That Marks The Onset Of A Seizure Episode

A subjective feeling of abnormal aural, visual, olfactory (of the nose), or tactile sensations just before an epileptic seizure is called as an aura. Experiencing such an aura during exposure to bright flickering lights should warn you that an attack of epilepsy is about to start within next few minutes.

Patterns of Seizures in Photosensitive Epilepsy

The pattern and nature of the seizures may vary from person to person. They may be  generalized tonic-clonic seizures or absence seizures. The seizure episodes may vary from simple to intense, as well.

Generalized Tonic-Clonic Seizures

In generalized tonic-clonic seizures, alternating, often forceful, contractions and relaxations of the muscles occur throughout the body. This phase can last for up to 5 minutes.

Partial/Focal Seizures

In partial seizure episodes, the muscles of a certain part of the body are involved. If the electrical activity spreads to other areas of brain, the seizures may become generalized.

Ictal Phase

The actual phase when the seizure is occurring is called the ictal phase. The type of seizure may vary depending upon the level of neuronal excitation and its spread in the brain. Localized focus of neuronal activity in the brain causes focal seizures (involving only a part of the body), while widespread electrical activation to various parts of the brain results in generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Postictal Phase

The phase following a seizure episode, the postictal phase, lasts for a few minutes. Some symptoms commonly seen during this phase are:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Heavy pain in the head and the muscles of body
  • Confused behavior
  • Signs of exhaustion

EEG (Electroencephalogram)

EEG indicates the electrical changes that take place continuously inside the brain. An EEG involves placing multiple electrodes all over the head of the patient and recording the electrical potentials coming from different parts of brain.

Photosensitive epilepsy symptoms are observed to identify the condition, which can then be confirmed by observing the changes in the EEG wave patterns while the person is being exposed to flickering light.