What Are the Different Types of Seizures?

January 16, 2022

Seizures are uncontrolled muscle states, behaviors, sensations, or awareness caused by uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. When seizures occur repeatedly without a known seizure-inducing trigger, the patient has a seizure disorder.

When seizure disorders are diagnosed, physicians must distinguish their types before deciding which medications are best. The two basic types of seizure disorder are focal or generalized seizures. The former begins when uncontrolled electrical activity bursts through brain cells, or neurons, in a small area of the brain. This may spread throughout the brain. Generalized onset seizures begin with such electrical activity throughout the brain. The two main types are further divided as follows:

  • Focal-Onset Seizures
    • Focal aware seizures or simple partial seizures involve uncontrolled movements such one wrist motion which the patient senses but does not control
    • Focal unaware seizures or complex partial seizures involve confusion or altered states of consciousness along with uncontrolled muscle stiffness or movements
      • Psychomotor seizures involve temporal part of brain only, resulting in altered consciousness and uncontrolled behavior
    • Generalized-Onset Seizures
      • Absence (Petit Mal) seizures present as episodes of staring while unaware, sometimes with vague humming
      • Myoclonic seizures consist of jerking motions of neck and upper limbs on both sides in clusters, frequently in the morning
      • Tonic seizures involve sudden muscle stiffness, frequently resulting in falls
      • Atonic seizures consist of sudden loss of muscle tone, often causing collapse
      • Tonic-clonic (Grand Mal) seizures develop from any of the other types spreading from one side of the brain to the other or becoming continuous.

Treatment Options–some of the most widely-prescribed medications are:

  • Tegretol (carbamazepine)–focal, generalized tonic-clonic, and mixed seizures
  • Dilantin (phenytoin)–tonic-clonic and psychomotor seizures
  • Depakene (valproic acid)–absence seizures
  • Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)–focal and tonic-clonic seizures
  • Lamictal (lamotrigine)–partial-onset and tonic clonic seizures
  • Neurontin (gabapentin)–partial seizures
  • Topamax (topiramate)–broad-spectrum for focal and generalized seizures
  • Phenobarbital–focal aware, focal unaware, and tonic-myoclonic seizures
  • Zonisamide–partial seizures

Did you know? QuickMD can refill your seizure medications remotely by telemedicine and prescribe anti-seizure medications online.

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