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Are there different types of seizure?

Generalised seizures, focal (partial) seizures and febrile convulsions are the most common types of seizure that occur

There are different types of seizure. Below is a description of the commonest varieties:

1. Generalised seizures

In these seizures, you have epileptic activity in both hemispheres (halves) of your brain. You usually lose consciousness during this type of seizure, but sometimes it can be so brief that no one notices. The muscles in your body may stiffen and/or jerk.

2. Focal (partial) seizures

  • In focal seizures, epileptic activity starts in just part of the person’s brain.
  • You might be aware of what is going on around you in a focal seizure, or you might not.
  • Different areas of the brain (lobes) are responsible for controlling all of our movements, body functions, feelings or reactions.
  • So, focal seizures can cause many different symptoms dependant on which area is affected.
  • It is important to be aware that focal seizures can act as a warning of a generalised seizure.
  • The epileptic activity that causes a focal seizure can sometimes spread through the brain and develop into a generalised seizure.

3. Febrile convulsions

Febrile convulsions are seizures occurring in children aged six months to five years. They happen with fever and without other underlying cause such as CNS infection or electrolyte imbalance.

  • The mechanisms are unknown. It is uncertain whether the degree of fever or the rate of rise of temperature is a trigger in febrile seizures.
  • There are uncommon atypical occurrences outside this age range (particularly between three and six months old and between five and six years old) which nonetheless otherwise fit the definition of a febrile convulsion.
  • Between 2% and 5% of European children have a febrile convulsion.
  • If the child is still convulsing or not fully alert, standard ABC protocols should be used:
    > Check blood glucose
    > If still seizing after five minutes, give rectal diazepam (this may be repeated after ten minutes if the seizure has not stopped) OR a single dose of buccal midazlolam (off-licence use).

Common causes

The most common causes of febrile convulsions include:

• Viral infections
• Otitis media
• Tonsillitis

Download more information on types of epilepsy and their presentations.

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Emergency and Urgent Care for Children: a Survival Guide

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