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Types of Epilepsy: Focal, Generalized, and Unknown

Types of Epilepsy: Focal, Generalized, and Unknown

March 9, 2023
Types of Epilepsy: Focal, Generalized, and Unknown

Epilepsy is a common long-term brain condition. It causes seizures, which are bursts of electricity in the brain. Different types of seizures affect the brain in different ways. For example, focal seizures affect only one part of the brain, whereas generalized seizures affect the entire brain. Some people can receive an epilepsy diagnosis if they have had one seizure and a doctor thinks they are likely to have another.

What is a Focal Seizure? Causes and Treatment

Focal seizures are seizures that happen in specific parts of your brain. Focal seizure symptoms reflect the region of the brain from which they originate. The initial symptoms of focal seizures may involve odd experiences during which time awareness is maintained. However, if the seizures continue to spread to other regions of your brain, they can sometimes progress to a loss of awareness.

Brain Tumor

Focal seizures can happen for many reasons, including the following:

  • Aneurysms
  • Irregular heart rhythms 
  • Brain tumors 
  • Cerebral hypoxia 
  • Concussion and traumatic brain injury
  • Degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia
  • Drug or alcohol withdrawal
  • Eclampsia
  • Electrolyte problems, especially low sodium, calcium, or magnesium
  • Fevers, especially high ones 
  • Genetic disorders 
  • Hormone-related changes 
  • Infections 
  • Inflammation from immune system disorders
  • Insomnia and other sleep-related problems
  • Metabolic problems, incredibly high blood sugar or low blood sugar 
  • Problems with your brain structure
  • Sepsis 
  • Strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • Using drugs and alcohol 

The treatments for focal seizures vary widely. For provoked seizures, the treatments almost always depend on the cause. The treatments for unprovoked and epilepsy-related seizures depend on the type of seizures, why they are happening, and which treatments work best.

What is a Generalized Seizure? Causes and Treatment

A generalized seizure starts when all brain areas are affected by an abnormal electrical impulse.

There are different types of generalized seizures, including:

  • Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)
  • Myoclonic seizures
  • Clonic seizures
  • Tonic seizures
  • Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures)
  • Atonic seizures (drop attacks)

Sometimes, the seizure may begin as a partial or focal seizure. These seizures may affect only part of the body. Then they may progress to a generalized seizure, which affects the whole body.

Many generalized seizures are caused by epilepsy. Other conditions may also cause these seizures, such as:

Patients with a family history of epilepsy or seizures may be at a higher risk. Although experts are not sure how the disease is passed from parent to child

Correct treatment can help reduce or prevent seizures. In some cases, treatment can help patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives.

Factors that affect the treatment include:

  • Type of seizure
  • Frequency of the seizures
  • Severity of seizures
  • Patient’s age
  • Patient’s overall health
  • Patient’s medical history

Anti-seizure medications can be highly effective. It may take a few tries to get the right drug and amount. Your doctor will work with you to monitor side effects and find the best treatment.

What is an Unknown Seizure?

Sometimes, doctors are sure that a person has epilepsy, but they don’t know whether the seizures are focal or generalized. It can happen if you are alone during seizures, so no one can describe what happened. Your doctor may also classify your epilepsy type as unknown if generalized or focal epilepsy if your test results aren’t precise.

Once you get a diagnosis, you and your doctor will choose the best treatment. Depending on the type of epilepsy you have, some treatments may work better than others.

Medication used for seizures:

  • Primidone – belongs to the barbiturate anticonvulsant medication. It is effective in controlling epileptic seizures in adults and children. It is used in combination with other drugs to control seizures. Primidone is FDA-approved and proven to be safe to use. However, check with your doctor before taking any medications to control your seizures. 

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