Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Symptoms of Epilepsy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Symptoms of Epilepsy

Epilepsy seizures are not all the same. Some can be mild and last only a minute or two. Others can cause problems that last much longer. Sudden, repeating seizures can cause harm to the heart or brain. They can be fatal if emergency care is not given right away.

There are many types of seizures. They each have their own symptoms.

Partial or Focal Seizures

These seizures start from one part of the brain. A person may have:

  • Tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
  • Muscle twitching on one side of a leg, arm, hand, finger, or muscle
  • Sensing smells, tastes, sights, sounds, or other things that are not real
  • Strange, repeating, motions or movements that cannot be controlled, such as chewing or smacking lips

Partial seizures may spread from one part of the body to another. Focal seizures may spread to both sides of the brain.

Generalized Convulsive (Grand Mal) Seizures

These seizures start from both sides of the brain. A person may have:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Muscle spasms or stiffening
  • A sudden fall to the ground
  • Strange, repeating motions or movements that cannot be controlled
  • Biting the tongue
  • A sense of a strange warning before it happens, such as the smell of burning rubber.
  • After it happens, a person may have:
    • Deep sleep, tiredness, confusion, or a change in responsiveness
    • Headache
    • Problems remembering the seizure

General Seizures Without Convulsions

Absence seizures, also called petit mal, are more common in children. A child may have:

  • A look of daydreaming
  • Blinking of the eyes rhythmically
  • Twitching of the face
  • No memory of the seizure after it happens

There are also other types of generalized seizures without convulsions.


  • Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-adults. Accessed April 8, 2022.
  • Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-children. Accessed April 8, 2022.
  • Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page. Accessed April 8, 2022.
  • What happens during a seizure? Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-101/what-happens-during-seizure. Accessed April 8, 2022.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.