There are several different types of seizures in children, including the following:
Partial seizures take place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas of one side of the brain. In about one-third of children with partial seizures, the child may experience an aura before the seizure occurs. An aura is a strange feeling, either consisting of visual changes, hearing abnormalities or changes in the sense of smell. Two types of partial seizures include the following:
- Simple partial seizures
The seizures typically last less than one minute. The child might show different symptoms depending on which area of the brain is involved. If the abnormal electrical brain function is in the occipital lobe (the back part of the brain that is involved with vision), the child's sight may be altered. The child's muscles are typically more commonly affected. The seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group, such as fingers, or to larger muscles in the arms and legs. Consciousness is not lost in this type of seizure. The child might also experience sweating or nausea or become pale.
- Complex partial seizures
This type of seizure commonly occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain, the area that controls emotion and memory function. This seizure usually lasts one to two minutes. Consciousness is usually lost during these seizures, and a variety of behaviors can occur. These behaviors can range from gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying or laughing. When the child regains consciousness, he might complain of being tired or sleepy after the seizure. This is called the postictal period.
Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain. There is loss of consciousness and a postictal state after the seizure occurs. Types of generalized seizures include the following:
- Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures)
These seizures are characterized by a brief altered state of consciousness and staring episodes. Typically, the child's posture is maintained during the seizure. The mouth or face may move or the eyes may blink. The seizure usually lasts no longer than 30 seconds. When the seizure is over, the child might not recall what just occurred and might go on with his activities, acting as though nothing happened. These seizures can occur several times a day. This type of seizure is sometimes mistaken for a learning problem or behavioral problem. Absence seizures almost always start between ages 4 and 12.
- Atonic (also called drop attacks)
With atonic seizures, there is a sudden loss of muscle tone, and the child can fall from a standing position or suddenly drop his head. During the seizure, the child is limp and unresponsive.
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (also called grand mal seizures)
This seizure is characterized by five distinct phases. The body, arms and legs will flex (contract), extend (straighten out), tremor (shake), a clonic period (contraction and relaxation of the muscles) occur and the postictal period will occur. During the postictal period, the child might be sleepy, have problems with vision or speech, and could have a bad headache, fatigue or body aches.
- Myoclonic seizures
This type of seizure refers to quick movements or sudden jerking of a group of muscles. These seizures tend to occur in clusters, meaning that they may occur several times a day, or for several days in a row.
- Infantile spasms
This rare type of seizure disorder can occur in infants anytime within the first two years of age. This seizure has a high occurrence rate when the child is waking, or when he is trying to go to sleep. The infant usually has brief periods of movement of the neck, trunk or legs that last for a few seconds. Infants can have hundreds of these seizures a day. This can be a serious problem, and can have long-term complications.
- Febrile seizures
This type of seizure is associated with fever. These seizures are more commonly seen in children between 6 months and 5 years of age, and there might be a family history of this type of seizure. Febrile seizures that last less than 15 minutes are called "simple," and they typically do not have long-term neurological effects. Seizures lasting more than 15 minutes are called "complex," and there might be long-term neurological changes in the child.