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Key Signs and Symptoms of Seizures That Determine Seizure Type

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Signs and symptoms of seizures are expressions of the acute events.  They correlate with theSigns and Symptoms of Seizures electrical disturbance in the brain that gives rise to them.  There are two types of descriptive terms for them.  They are general and specific.  The general ones define the type of expression.  The specific descriptors are the actual signs and symptoms per se.  In the new ILAE 2017 classification system the general descriptors are a part of the name of the seizure type.  As such, they are seizure classifiers inasmuch as they are classification elements.  In some cases the classifier is the noun for a sign or symptom.  In other instances it is the adjective of that attribute.  It depends on the seizure type.

Below is a list of the most common ILAE 2017 seizure classifiers and/or their parental terms along with their meanings to date.  The checkmark in the right column indicates that the term to the left of it is a classifier. 

ILAE 2017 Seizure Classifiers Medical Terminology

Pronunciation of key terms

Descriptors of Seizure Signs and Symptoms
Absence – Signs and symptoms occurring with a typical absence seizure. They include the sudden occurrence of interruption of one’s activities associated with a blank stare and brief upward turning of the eyes.  The person experiencing it is usually unresponsive when spoken to. 

Atypical absence – The signs and symptoms similar to those of an atypical absence seizure, but their onset and cessation are less abrupt.  In other words, they are more prolonged.  A disturbance in muscle tone, often causing the person to go limp, is another difference compared to the features of a typical absence seizure. 

Eyelid myoclonia absence – Typical absence seizure signs and symptoms accompanied by eyelid myoclonia.

Atony – Lack of normal muscle tone; flaccidity; limpness. – N. 

Atonic – Flaccid or lacking muscle tone. – Adj.

Autonomic – Characteristic of action(s) of the autonomic nervous system.  Examples include sweating, flushing, and piloerection (the formation of goose bumps). – Adj.  

Automatism (automatic behaviors) – A repetitive movement or action that one performs without awareness of it.  Some examples are eye blinking, lip smacking, chewing, swallowing, tapping, grasping, fumbling, hand clapping, etc. The person usually but not always, does not remember the event.

Awareness – Knowledge of self and environment. 

Unaware – Not knowledgeable of self and environment. – Adj.

Behavior arrest – The sudden pause of activity; freeze in movements. 

Clonus – Alternating involuntary contraction and relaxation of a muscle or muscle group in rapid succession; rhythmic jerking.  – N. 

Clonic – Characterized by clonus or rhythmic jerking. – Adj.

Cognitive impairment – Decreased or absent cognition or thinking skills. 

Cognitive – Pertaining to cognitive impairment. – Adj.

Emotion – A mental state that occurs spontaneously rather than through conscious effort.  It is sometimes a result of circumstances.  It might be associated with physiologic changes. 

Emotional – Involving an emotion(s). – Adj.

Epileptic spasms – The sudden flexion, extension, or a combination of both contraction of muscles mainly of the proximal limbs or the trunk.  The contractions are greater than myoclonic but less than tonic in terms of their duration.  

Eyelid myoclonia – Jerking of the eyelids at a frequency of at least 3 times per second, often with upward gaze, and lasting less than 10 seconds.  It is characteristic of an eyelid myoclonic absence seizure.  

Hyperkinesia – Excessive activity of muscles.  

Hyperkinetic – Exhibiting an excessive amount of muscular activity. – Adj.

Impaired awareness – Diminished or absent knowledge of self and environment.

Unaware – No knowledgeable of self and environment. – Adj.

Motor – Pertaining to skeletal muscle movement.

Myoclonus – Quick involuntary contractions of a muscle or muscle group without any rhythm or pattern of recurrence. 

Myoclonic – Characterized by myoclonus or arrhythmic jerking. – Adj.  

Myoclonic-atonic – Descriptive of the seizure starting out with myoclonus followed by atony. – Adj.  

Myoclonic-tonic-clonic – Descriptive of a generalized seizure beginning with a few jerks of the limbs bilaterally followed by tonic-clonic muscle activity. – Adj.  

Nonmotor – Not pertaining to skeletal muscle movement.  

Sensation – Perception with one of the five senses – vision, hearing, touch, smelling, or tasting.

Sensory – Pertaining to sensation.  

Tonic muscle activity – Continuous or prolonged muscle contraction(s).  

Tonic – Characterized by continuous or prolonged contraction of the muscle.  It might result in either flexion or extension of a body part – Adj.

Tonic/clonic – Tonic contractions followed by clonic (jerking) contractions of skeletal muscles. – Adj.


































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Seizure Types by Name in the ILAE 2017 Classification System

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