Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain. There is loss of consciousness and a postictal state after the seizure occurs.
Types of generalized seizures include the following:
Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures). These seizures are characterized by a brief, altered state of consciousness and staring episodes. Typically, the person's posture is maintained during the seizure. The mouth or face may twitch or the eyes may blink rapidly. The seizure usually lasts no longer than 30 seconds. When the seizure is over, the person may not recall what just occurred and may go on with his or her activities, acting as though nothing happened. These seizures may occur several times a day. This type of seizure is sometimes mistaken for a learning problem or behavioral problem. Absence seizures almost always start between ages 4 to 12 years.
Atonic (also called drop attacks). With atonic seizures, there is a sudden loss of muscle tone and the person may fall from a standing position or suddenly drop his or her head. During the seizure, the person is limp and unresponsive.
Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTC or also called grand mal seizures). The classic form of this kind of seizure, which may not occur in every case, is characterized by five distinct phases. The body, arms, and legs will flex (contract), extend (straighten out), and tremor (shake), followed by a clonic period (contraction and relaxation of the muscles) and the postictal period. Not all of these phases may be seen in everyone with this type of seizure. During the postictal period, the person may be sleepy, have problems with vision or speech, and may have a bad headache, fatigue, or body aches.
Myoclonic seizures. This type of seizure refers to quick movements or sudden jerking of a group of muscles. These seizures tend to occur in clusters, meaning that they may occur several times a day, or for several days in a row.
Infantile spasms. This rare type of seizure disorder occurs in infants before six months of age. There is a high occurrence rate of this seizure when the child is awakening, or when he or she is trying to go to sleep. The infant usually has brief periods of movement of the neck, trunk, or legs that lasts for a few seconds. Infants may have hundreds of these seizures a day. This can be a serious problem, and can have long-term complications that affect growth and development.
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