A Guide to the Most Common Types of Seizures and Why They Happen


Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. Seizures are episodes of abnormal brain activity that can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the person.

There are many different types of seizures, and each one can look very different from person to person. In this article, we'll take you through the most common types of seizures and explain what causes them. We'll also highlight some key ways to help prevent seizures from happening.

What Is a Seizure?

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on which part of the brain is affected.

There are many different types of seizures, but the most common are:

-Focal seizures, which start in a specific area of the brain

-Generalized seizures, which affect the whole brain

-Absence seizures, which cause a short period of loss of awareness

-Tonic-clonic seizures, which are the most common type, and cause loss of consciousness and muscle stiffness

Different Types of Seizures

There are many types of seizures, and each one is unique. Here are some of the most common types:

  1. Tonic-clonic seizures (previously called grand mal seizures): This is the type of seizure that most people think of when they hear the word "seizure." They tend to last for 1-3 minutes, and during this time the person may lose consciousness, have violent muscle contractions and/or urinate or defecate on themselves.

  2. Absence seizures (previously called petit mal seizures): These are short, sudden lapses in consciousness that can last for just a few seconds or up to a minute. They often go unnoticed, as the person doesn't lose muscle control or make any noise.

  3. Partial seizures: This is the most common type of seizure, accounting for about 60% of all cases. They start in one area of the brain and can cause a wide variety of symptoms depending on which part of the brain is involved.

  4. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures: As mentioned earlier, these are the seizures that typically involve loss of consciousness, muscle contractions and urination/defecation. They tend to be more severe than other types of seizures and can be life-threatening if they're not treated quickly.

Causes of Seizures

There are many potential causes of seizures, some of which are more common than others. Some seizures may be caused by a focal point, such as a stroke, brain tumor or infection. Other seizures may be caused by a systemic problem, such as electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar or liver disease.

Seizures can also be caused by genetic factors or by exposure to drugs or alcohol. In about 30% of cases, the cause is unknown.

How to Identify a Seizure

Not all seizures look the same, so it's important to recognize a seizure when you see it. Seizure symptoms can include jerking or twitching movements of the arms, legs, or face; loss of consciousness; blank staring episodes; difficulty speaking or understanding language; and changes in sensation or emotion. It's also important to note that any combination of symptoms could indicate a seizure—so if something just doesn't seem right, take the person to a doctor for diagnosis.

A neurologist can diagnose a seizure by talking to you about your symptoms, examining your medical history, running tests such as an EEG (electroencephalogram), and observing how you react in certain situations. Getting the correct diagnosis is essential for finding the best treatment plan so that you can manage your seizures once and for all.

Treatments for Seizures

The treatment plan for seizures will depend on the type and severity of your seizures and the underlying cause of your condition. Treatment typically includes medications, lifestyle changes, or surgical procedures.

Medications can help reduce the number of seizures you experience and prevent them in some cases. Anti-seizure medications can also help improve concentration, memory, and attention in people who experience seizure related cognitive issues.

In some cases, lifestyle changes such as getting adequate sleep, avoiding alcohol and certain drugs or supplements, reducing stress, and avoiding certain triggers can help reduce the frequency of seizures.

If medications or lifestyle modifications aren't successful, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove a part of your brain that is causing seizures or to implant a device known as a vagus nerve stimulator to regulate electrical activity in the brain.

No matter what treatment option you choose, it's important to work with your healthcare provider to create an individualized plan that works best for you.

Tips for Managing Seizures

If you're living with seizures, there are a few things you can do to help manage them. First and foremost, talk to your doctor. They may be able to suggest medications or other treatments that can reduce the chances of a seizure occurring.

Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep and managing stress levels. Stress can increase the likelihood of seizures, so it's important to take steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Additionally, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and drugs and avoiding triggers like flashing lights can be helpful in maintaining seizure control.

It’s also important to keep safety in mind if you think a seizure is coming on. Make sure you’re not in an area where you could injure yourself if you were to have a seizure—like near a hot stove or on stairs—and tell those around you know what's happening so they can help keep an eye on you. Lastly, keep track of when seizures happen, note the severity and duration, and share this information with your doctor so that they can monitor your condition more effectively.


When it comes to seizures, there's still a lot that scientists don't know. But we do know that seizures can have many different causes, and that they can happen for different reasons. We also know that seizures can be dangerous, and that it's important to seek medical help if you think you might be having a seizure.

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