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#PurpleDay - Identifying Types of Epilepsy

March 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM

You might remember the blog I did recently about epilepsy and the work of Epilepsy Action, if you didn’t see it please follow this link.

With #PurpleDay only a few short weeks away I wanted to give you more information about the different types of epilepsy.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres each consisting of four lobes- the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes. There are about 40 different types of seizures which can happen in any part of the brain. The types of seizure are divided into two groups and are then sub-categorised.

Seizure types & sub-categories chart

The temporal lobes are responsible for many functions including hearing, speech, memory, emotions and learning. Temporal lobes seizures usually last between 30 seconds and two minutes.

The frontal lobes are responsible for making decisions, solving problems, behaviour, consciousness and emotions. Frontal lobe seizures usually last less than 30 seconds and often happen during sleep.

The parietal lobes are responsible for processing information from the different senses in the body, processing language, writing and maths skills. Parietal lobe seizures last between a few seconds and a few minutes and affect about one in twenty people with epilepsy.

The occipital lobes process information relating to vision. Occipital lobe seizures last for seconds and can affect between one in five and one in ten people with epilepsy.

Focal Seizures

In focal seizures the seizure starts in, and affects only part of the brain but the part affected could be large or small. During a focal seizure a person might be aware of what is going on around them but equally, they might not as different areas of the brain are responsible for controlling different movements, bodily functions and feelings meaning focal seizures can cause many different symptoms. Experiences during the seizure vary depending on where in the brain the seizure occurs and what that part of the brain usually does.

Sometimes focal seizures spread from one side to both sides of the brain. This is called a secondarily generalised seizure as it begins as a focal seizure before becoming generalised. When this happens a person becomes unconscious and will usually have a tonic clonic seizure.

Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizures affect both sides of the brain at once and can happen without warning. A person is usually unconscious if only for a few seconds. Afterwards they will not remember what happened during the seizure.

Full details on different types of seizures and the symptoms a person might experience can be found in the Advice and Information References section of the Epilepsy Action or by emailing helpline@epilepsyaction.org.uk but below is a handy table providing a brief overview of the different subcategories for both Focal and Generalised seizures so that you know what to look out for if you are in the company of someone who has an epileptic fit.

Focal Seizures Generalised Seizures

Simple Focal Seizures (SFS)

A small part of one of the lobes is affected. The person is conscious and will usually know that something is happening and will remember the seizure afterwards

Absence Seizures

Are more common in children and can happen frequently. During an absence a person becomes unconscious for a short time

Complex Focal Seizures (CFS)

A larger part of one hemisphere is affected. The person's consciousness may be affected, they may be confused and make strange or repetitive movements

Tonic Seizures

A person's muscles become stiff and if standing they may fall backwards which may cause injury to the back of their head. Tonic seizures tend to happen without warning and be brief

Atonic Seizures

A person's muscles suddenly relax and they become floppy. If standing they often fall forwards which may cause injury to their head or face

Myclonic Seizures

Are muscle jerks which are brief and can happen in clusters, muscle jerks are not always caused by epilepsy

Clonic Seizures

Are convulsive seizures but the person does not go stiff at the start

Tonic Clonic Seizures

The person becomes unconscious and their body goes stiff. If standing they usually fall backwards. During the seizure the person will jerk and shake as their muscle's relax and tighten rhythmically

What to do following a seizure

If you think that you have had a seizure you should visit your GP who will arrange for you to see an Epilepsy Specialist ensuring that you get the right diagnosis and treatment.

If you are diagnosed with Epilepsy it can be useful to keep a seizure diary, a record that helps the individual as well as their doctor or specialist to know what’s been happening, when seizures occur, the type and possible triggers.

How to help

On #PurpleDay, 26 March 2017 Epilepsy Action will be publishing stories from people with the condition about how epilepsy affects their daily lives. You can do your bit to raise awareness by sharing this blog or even having your own fundraising day like I will be doing.

You could also sign up for a newsletter from Epilepsy Action by visiting www.epilepsy.org.uk.

About the Author

Samantha Handley Photo

Samantha Handley is a Litigator within our Loss Recovery Team.

Samantha deals predominantly with corporate fleet clients and in addition to handling her own caseload, Samantha enjoys supporting and training new members of the team.

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