What are the clinical signs or symptoms of epileptic seizures?

Updated: May 30, 2019
  • Author: David Y Ko, MD; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Seizures are the manifestation of abnormal hypersynchronous or hyperexcitable discharges of cortical neurons. The clinical signs or symptoms of seizures depend on the location of the epileptic discharges in the cerebral cortex and the extent and pattern of the propagation of the epileptic discharge in the brain. Thus, seizure symptoms are highly variable, but for most patients with 1 focus, the symptoms are usually very stereotypic.

It should not be surprising that seizures are a common, nonspecific manifestation of neurologic injury and disease, because the main function of the brain is the transmission of electrical impulses. The lifetime likelihood of experiencing at least 1 epileptic seizure is about 9%, and the lifetime likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of epilepsy is almost 3%. However, the prevalence of active epilepsy is only about 0.8%. (See Epidemiology.)

This article reviews the classifications, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and treatment of epileptic seizures and some common epileptic syndromes. (See Pathophysiology, Presentation, DDx, and Treatment.)

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