Symptoms of Epilepsy

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The symptoms of the disease correspond to the sensations that the patient feels when the neuronal groups responsible for their seizures are activated. Some patients notice a sensation before losing consciousness called aura. The type of sensation or aura depends on the function of these neuronal groups, and it is usually the same in each patient. Some of these symptoms are:

Person with anxiety, fear and worry

Fear. It comes and goes quickly. This usually occurs in temporal lobe epilepsy.

Person and watch

A feeling of having experienced a situation before (déjà vu). Typical in temporal lobe epilepsy.

Woman vomiting into the toilet

Nausea or a rising sensation coming from the stomach (epigastric aura).

Numbness or tingling in hands and feet

A tingling feeling in one area of the body. This is usually associated with epilepsy affecting the parietal lobe or sometimes in the frontal lobe.

Migraine with aura

Seeing lights, colours or figures. In cases of epilepsy that affect the posterior quadrant of the brain (posterior temporal, parietal and occipital lobes).

Person exhaling through the nose

Unusual odours, generally unpleasant ones. This is common for epilepsy associated with the frontal and mesial temporal regions of the brain.

 

Sound waves

Unusual noises and distorted sounds. In cases of epilepsy affecting the neocortical temporal, opercular and insular regions of the brain.

Signs of epilepsy

The clinical signs of epilepsy are the objective manifestations observed during a physical examination.

Confused man at table with papers with question marks on his head

Altered, or impaired, level of consciousness. The patient is absent and does not respond to questions, they are unaware of themselves and their surroundings.

Person performing repetitive arm movements

Automatism. The patient repeatedly moves their mouth or hands (e.g., repeated swallowing, touching their clothes, etc.). They may or may not be “absent” during this episode and, in general, they do not remember afterwards.

Person lying stiffly on the ground

Stiffness. This can affect one limb, the face or the whole body (tonic seizures). Clusters of tonic seizures are the most telling indication of West syndrome, an epileptic disorder in infants.

Person with spasticity or involuntary contraction of the muscles

Muscle spasms. These can affect one limb, the face or the whole body (clonic seizures).

Lying down with convulsions

Convulsions. A generalised convulsion consists of a tonic phase, in which the entire body goes stiff and the patient produces a guttural sound, followed by generalised jerking in the arms and legs. The whole seizure tends to last 2–3 minutes, and the patient may bite their tongue and experience urinary incontinence.

Confused person

Confusion. Patients are often confused after a seizure involving impaired consciousness or a generalised tonic–clonic seizure.

 

Man with inability or difficulty to speak

Difficulty speaking. Some seizures are only identified by the fact that the patient, who remains fully conscious, struggles to find the words to express themselves (aphasic seizures). However, other patients with seizures that start in the hemisphere of the brain that controls language experience aphasia for a few minutes after the seizure.

Substantiated information by:

Antonio Jesús Donaire Pedraza
Francisco Gil López
Maria del Mar Carreño Martínez

Published: 22 May 2018
Updated: 22 May 2018

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