There are many different types of seizures. New terms to describe and classify seizures have been developed by the International League Against Epilepsy. This was done to make the names of seizures more accurate, less confusing, and more descriptive of what is happening. The new terms consider these important areas when describing seizures.
- The onset or beginning of a seizure: Where seizures start in the brain tells a lot about what may occur during a seizure, what other conditions or symptoms may be seen, how they may affect someone and, most importantly, what treatment may be best for that seizure type. When we don’t know the onset of a seizure, the wrong treatment may be used. Or a person may not be offered a treatment that has the best chance of helping.
- A person’s level of awareness during a seizure: Whether a person is aware or not tells a lot about the type of seizure. It’s also very important to know for a person’s safety.
- Whether movements happen during a seizure: Seizures can also be described by whether motor symptoms occur. When no motor symptoms happen, it can be called a non-motor seizure. This level of description does not need to be used all the time, especially when generally describing or talking about seizures. Yet other times you may find the motor terms helpful.
“New” Classification of Seizure Types Basic Version
from International League Against Epilepsy, 2017
Aware | Impaired Awareness
Motor | Non-Motor
Focal to bilateral tonic-clonic
To learn more: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures
- Take information into your doctor or nurse along with a description of your seizures. Ask family or friends to write down what they see happening or to take a video. Then ask for help understanding your type of seizures.
- Find in-depth description of the seizure classification used by professionals and scientists here.
Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES/PNES)
Nonepileptic seizures (or “NES”) are events that may look like epileptic seizures but are not caused by abnormal brain electrical discharges. They may be associated with psychological conditions or other physical problems.
A physician may suspect NES when the seizures have unusual features such as type of movements, duration, triggers and frequency. Further testing is needed to find the exact cause so they can be treated properly. Psychogenic nonepileptic events are common.
About 20% of the people referred to comprehensive epilepsy centers for video EEG (electroencephalogram) monitoring are found to have nonepileptic seizures. About 1 in 6 of these people also has epileptic seizures or has had them in the past.
Nonepileptic events have been more widely recognized during the past several decades. The good news is that these events can respond to treatment. A psychiatric evaluation helps sort out possible psychological problems and the types of treatment that may be needed.