Within the two categories of seizure disorders, there are many different types of seizures, each with their own characteristics based on where they originate in the brain. Visual and auditory seizures, for example, originate in the areas of the brain that control sight and hearing, and may cause people to see things that are not there or imagine voices and other sounds. Motor attacks can cause parts of the body to jerk repeatedly, while sensory seizures begin with numbness or tingling in certain areas of the body. Other types of seizures can cause confusion, upset stomach, or emotional distress. Some, like “absence seizures,” which can look like daydreaming, appear to be mild. Others, like grand mal seizures (also called generalized tonic clonic seizures), can cause a child to drop to the floor, shake, and lose consciousness, and appear more serious. (See Symptoms of Epilepsy in Children to learn more.)
Seizures can last a few seconds or a few minutes. When a seizure lasts a long time it can lead to status epilepticus, a life-threatening condition that is characterized by continuous seizures, sustained loss of consciousness, and respiratory distress.
Some people with seizure disorders have more than one type of seizure. Seizures disorders can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are so fleeting. That’s why it’s important for a child to be evaluated at a major medical center for pediatric epilepsy, where a full range of diagnostic and treatment options are available. (See Diagnosing and Treating Epilepsy in Children to learn more.)
Our Care Team
- Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neuroscience
- Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery in Pediatrics
- Associate Professor of Neuropsychology in Neurological Surgery
- Director of Neuropsychology Services
- Vice Chair for Clinical Research
- David and Ursel Barnes Professor in Minimally Invasive Surgery
- Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Otolaryngology
- Director, Center for Epilepsy and Pituitary Surgery
- Co-Director, Surgical Neuro-oncology
Reviewed by: Caitlin Hoffman, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: December 2020