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Health and Social Care Epilepsy – Seizures

Aims and Objectives This session will focus on what epileptic seizures  It will look types of seizures  It will also cover what can happen during a seizure  You will demonstrate your understanding in an end of session assessment 

Introduction Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that affects about 1 person in every 200 ď Ź Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures that originate in the brain ď Ź

Effects of Seizures A seizure can cause changes in a person's:  Body movements  Awareness  Emotions  Senses (e.g. taste, smell, vision, or hearing) 

Seizures and Epilepsy A person can have more than one type of seizure  Types of seizure can change  Over time  With drug treatment 

Fear and Prejudice Epilepsy is sometimes feared and a great deal of misunderstanding and prejudice surrounds the condition ď Ź If a person's seizures are controlled then epilepsy should not stop them from leading a full life ď Ź

Types of Epilepsy There are many different causes  Around 30 different epileptic syndromes  Over 38 different seizure types  Epilepsy can go into remission as suddenly as it started  Or it can stay with a person forever 

Categories of Seizure 

There are 3 broad categories:

Primary generalised seizures

Partial seizures

Secondary generalised seizures

Types of Epilepsy Seizure types:  Simple partial seizure  Complex partial seizure  Absence seizure  Tonic, atonic and myoclonic seizures  Tonic clonic (major convulsive) seizure 

Status Epilepticus Status epilepticus is a condition in which seizures persist for 30 minutes or more ď Ź It can occur with all types of seizure, but with tonic clonic seizures it is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical treatment ď Ź

Effects of Seizures Seizures cause temporary disturbances of brain functions (e.g. motor control, responsiveness and recall) which typically last from seconds to a few minutes ď Ź Seizures may be followed by a period of confusion or sensory impairment that can persist for several hours ď Ź

Primary Generalised Seizures The whole brain is affected by the disruption to its usual activity and consciousness is lost  Seizures in this category include:  Absences  Tonic-clonic  Tonic and atonic seizures, or drop attacks  Myoclonic 

Primary Generalised Seizures Absences  The person looks blank for a few seconds and may not respond when spoken to or realise they have had a seizure  This type of seizure can happen repeatedly and can be mistaken for daydreaming 

Primary Generalised Seizures 


The person stiffens, loses consciousness, convulses and may fall  Incontinence may occur 

Primary Generalised Seizures Tonic and atonic seizures, or drop attacks ď Ź The person may stiffen and fall heavily or lose muscle tone and crumple to the ground ď Ź

Primary Generalised Seizures Myoclonic ď Ź Rhythmic, shock-like muscle jerks that can affect the whole body and can be strong enough to throw the person to the ground ď Ź

Partial Seizures 

Only part of the brain is affected and consciousness may be altered but not lost

Seizures in this category include:

Simple partial seizure

Complex partial seizures

Partial Seizures Simple partial seizure ď Ź The person may experience unusual sensations and/or movement in one part of the body (e.g. tingling or twitching) ď Ź

Partial Seizures 

Complex partial seizures

Awareness is disturbed or lost and the person may experience unusual feelings  They may be unaware of their surroundings and unable to respond when spoken to and their behaviour may appear strange 

Secondary Generalised Seizures ď Ź

The disruption starts in one part of the brain and spreads to the whole brain

Understanding Seizures If a persons’ seizures are active (70% of people are seizure free) you need to understand:  Their type of seizure  Their seizure frequency  Their seizure pattern 

Understanding Seizures Seizure pattern (examples)  Only whilst asleep?  Only on wakening?  Only on going to sleep?  At a particular time of day?  And so on . . . 

Understanding Seizures Seizure pattern (continued)  Is there a specific “trigger” for their seizures (e.g. tiredness)  Do they get a warning (aura) that their seizure is about to happen? 

Seizures and Risks There will be substantial risks if the person is having “unpredictable” (no warning, no pattern, no “trigger”) seizures  Special Note  It is possible to have more than one type of seizure 

Sleep Some people with epilepsy find that certain situations can have an effect on their seizures: ď Ź For example being tired or having a disturbed sleep pattern ď Ź

Photosensitive Epilepsy Some people have photosensitive epilepsy  This means their seizures are triggered by flashing lights or by certain geometric shapes and patterns  Special warnings:  TV  Strip lighting 

Photosensitive Epilepsy This is relatively rare and affects around 3-5% of people with epilepsy ď Ź People who have photosensitive epilepsy are most likely to react to lights which flicker between five and thirty times per second (5-30 Hertz) ď Ź

End of Session Assessment ď Ź

Testing your knowledge. . . . . . .

ď Ź

Before the handout

References Richards, J. (1999) – Complete A – Z Health & Social Care Handbook. London. Hodder & Stoughton.  Waugh, A., Grant, A. (2002) – Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness. Edinburgh. Churchill Livingstone.  Epilepsy Research Foundation ( 


Health and Social Care Epilepsy – Seizures Aims and Objectives  This session will focus on what epileptic seizures  It will look types of...

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