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What You Need to Know about Seizures

March 16, 2019

When you think of seizures, you probably imagine the type of seizure that involves violent muscle contractions and loss of consciousness. But not all seizures look exactly the same. Here, we break down what you need to know about common type of seizures, as well as when to talk with your doctor.

What do seizures look like?

While seizures may not look the same from person to person, Dr. Rajinder Singh, DO, epileptologist with Kettering Physician Network Brain & Spine, explains that there are three main types of seizures. These include grand mal seizures, complex partial seizures, and simple partial seizures.

  • Grand mal seizures: These are the seizures that many people think of first. “Symptoms can include stiffness of extremities, eyes rolling backward, and loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes, tongue bite, and/or loss of bladder control,” says Dr. Singh. Often people will feel confused after a grand mal seizure or may even go to sleep.
  • Complex partial seizures: The person will have an altered awareness of their surroundings along with some repetitive movements like lip smacking or hand fidgeting.
  • Simple partial seizures: The patient’s cognition will remain intact, but one part of the body could be having repetitive symptoms, such as a hand moving uncontrollably, going numb, or tingling.

Specific concerns for women

If you experience any of these seizure symptoms, talk with your doctor to find a diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

One of the common tests to help with diagnosis is called an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG assesses electrical activity of the brain, explains Dr. Singh. “With data from the EEG and a clinical history, we can often reach diagnosis and start treatment.”

With women specifically, Dr. Singh emphasizes that, ideally, women should discuss seizure care and treatment with a physician before getting pregnant. If this is not possible, however, it’s extremely important to talk with a physician right after getting pregnant.

“I advise all women of childbearing age who are physically capable of having children and are on seizure medications to take folic acid and prenatal vitamins,” says Dr. Singh. “Most developmental problems to the baby would occur in the first four weeks of pregnancy. Many women aren’t aware that they are pregnant this early, so it’s better to be ahead of things.” Dr. Singh explains that some seizure medications can decrease levels of folic acid, which is involved in neurological development.

“It’s important not to stop any seizure medications once you get pregnant,” Dr. Singh advises. Instead, communicate with your doctor and do your best to plan your pregnancy in partnership with your physician.  

While seizures can be disruptive, it is possible to live a normal, healthy life with seizures. To find out more about treatment options or to request a referral, visit ketteringhealth.org/epilepsy