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- Primary generalized seizures—seizures begin with widespread involvement of both sides of the brain.
- Partial seizures—seizures begin with involvement of a smaller, localized area of the brain. With some partial seizures, the disturbance can still spread within seconds or minutes to involve widespread areas of the brain (secondary generalized seizure).
Some people have seizures that are hardly noticeable to others. Sometimes, the only clue that a person is having an absence seizure—a type of primary generalized seizure sometimes called petit mal—is rapid blinking or a few seconds of staring into space. In contrast, a person having a complex partial
seizure may appear confused or dazed and will not be able to respond to
questions or direction for up to a few minutes. Finally, a person
having a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, sometimes called grand mal,
may cry out, lose consciousness, fall to the ground, and have rigidity
and muscle jerks lasting up to a few minutes, with an extended period of
confusion and fatigue afterward.
A more detailed explanation of the diagnosis of seizure types and epilepsy syndromes may be found in a publication of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research .