Epilepsy isn't a diagnosis that anyone wants to receive, and since it's a neural disorder rooted in the brain's electrical signals, it's potentially much harder to understand than diagnoses like diabetes or heart disease. Epilepsy is also difficult to understand because it takes many forms which manifest themselves in different types of seizures.


If you're feeling frightened by your diagnosis or confused about why your recent seizure happened, we're here to make things easier on you by explaining some of the main types of seizures and why they happen. Hopefully, reading this information — along with discussing your diagnosis with your neurologist — will make your seizures feel a little less confusing and a lot more manageable.


1. Generalized Onset Seizures
The International League Against Epilepsy, the most prominent epilepsy research group, categorizes seizures based on three criteria: where a seizure begins in the brain, how aware the victim remains during the seizure, and whether or not the person moves during the seizure.
As the name implies, generalized seizures aren't localized to one specific point in the brain — they originate across and impact the entire brain, not just one hemisphere.


Generalized onset seizures can either cause you to move or to go completely rigid during the seizure. A generalized motor seizure, for instance, causes you to jerk about and your muscles to go stiff. In contrast, in a generalized non-motor seizure, you might repeat a small motion over and over while your eyes go unfocused.


2. Focal Onset Seizures
Unlike generalized onset seizures, focal onset seizures originate from one main point in the brain. Because of how these seizures start, you can either remain aware of what's happening to you and of your surroundings during the seizure, or you may become disoriented and lose track of what's going on.


If during your seizure you experienced odd flickers or waves of emotion along with physical symptoms like a rapidly beating heart, you probably experienced a focal onset seizure, not a generalized onset seizure.


3. Unknown Onset Seizures
Sometimes, a seizure is diagnosed as unknown because it happened while you were alone. No one was there to see and describe the symptoms that would help a specialist correctly diagnose the type of seizure you experienced. Usually, once a neurologist has had time to observe you, they can categorize the seizure as either focal or generalized.


Why Does Knowing the Type of Seizure You Had Matter?
Knowing the type of seizure you had will go a long way towards helping your doctor prescribe the right treatment. For instance, generalized onset seizures can be easier to treat with certain medications, while focal onset seizures could require surgery, depending on where in the brain they happen.


If you and your doctor don't know what type of seizure you had, you could undergo an observation period or complete a CT scan or MRI to help your doctor see where seizures could originate.


What Steps Should You Take Next?
Understanding what type of seizure happened to you is crucial, but the only person who can help you treat the condition is a qualified medical professional. If you haven't done so yet, it's time to book an appointment with a neurologist who can give you an official epilepsy diagnosis. Plus, as discussed above, your neurologist is qualified to both diagnose your condition and prescribe treatments specific to your body and type of epilepsy.
Do you live near St. Petersburg, FL? Central Neurology, P.L., is here for you. Schedule an appointment today to talk to an experienced neurologist about your epilepsy and get the support, understanding, and treatment you need