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What are the Most Common Seizure Side Effects?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke

A seizure is an incident in which the brain’s normal activities are suddenly disrupted. These disruptions may result in sudden, uncontrollable changes in movement, behavior, speech, or attention. Seizures are thought to be the result of the brain’s signals becoming overly stimulated and out of control. The brain’s functioning can be affected by disorders such as epilepsy, dementia, stroke, autism, or heart attack, as well as head trauma or adverse reaction to medications. Seizure side effects can vary widely depending on the type of seizure.

One type of seizure is known as a partial seizure. Partial seizures are the result of disrupted brain functioning in just one part of the brain, rather than the entire brain, and have two main types: simple and complex. Simple partial seizures tend to be less serious than complex partial seizures and may result in side effects like sudden change in sensory perception, such as taste, smell, or sight, abrupt shifts in emotion, and tingling or jerking in the arms or legs. Complex partial seizure side effects may be more serious because they can cause sudden loss in consciousness as well as inexplicable actions such as staring without focusing, walking in circles for no reason, or repetitive swallowing or hand gestures.


Another type of seizure is a generalized seizure, a seizure in which the entire brain is affected by abnormal activity, instead of just one area like with partial seizures. Generalized seizures can fall into four areas: myoclonic, tonic-clonic, absence, or atonic. The most mild form, the myoclonic seizure, typically causes involuntary movement in the arms and legs, while the most serious form, the tonic-clonic, can result in uncontrollable twitching and shaking of the entire body, involuntary rigidity throughout the whole body, and loss of consciousness. Absence seizure side effects may include staring without focusing and slight involuntary movements of the arms and legs. The last type of generalized seizure, the atonic seizure, are often referred to as drop seizures because they generally cause a person to lose control of muscle function and fall.

Seizure side effects can cause potentially dangerous complications, particularly if the seizures result in loss of consciousness. This may prevent a person from being able to safely drive or be around bodies of water without supervision. People who suffer from seizures may reduce their frequency with the use of anticonvulsant medications, which may be used to reduce the out of control brain signals that contribute to seizures.

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