Recurrent seizures are the signs of epilepsy. Seizures caused by temporary medical problems such as high or low blood sugar, head injury, fever and alcohol or drug abuse, are not an indication of epilepsy. Eclampsia, a serious condition that may affect a pregnant woman, also causes seizures not related to epilepsy. Treatment is required only for those conditions. A diagnosis of epilepsy is considered after two or more unprovoked seizures.
Epileptic seizures are characterized by the intensity of the event.
- Petit mal – known as an absence seizure with mild, almost unnoticeable reactions such as eyes to blinking rapidly or the person staring into space
- Complex partial – causing confusion and inability to communicate, nausea, abdominal pain, and muscle contractions lasting up to a few minutes
- Grand mal – also a generalized tonic-clonic seizure causing a person to lose consciousness, fall to the ground and become rigid and jerky, followed by disorientation and fatigue
Some people with epilepsy experience the same signal just prior to a seizure. They may have a tingling sensation, smell odors that are not present, or have sudden changes in emotion.