Before a seizure, many people experience a warning sign called an aura, which may involve a particular smell, feeling, or visual effect. After a seizure, a person may be confused, tired, or sleepy, may experience muscle aches or soreness, and may not remember what happened.
Many people believe that someone having an epileptic seizure is in danger of swallowing his or her tongue and choking. In reality, this almost never happens. If you try to prop the mouth open of someone who is experiencing a seizure, you can damage their teeth (or lose a finger). If the person is standing, you should usually do nothing; if they are unconscious, roll them on their side with something soft under their head and loosen the top button of their shirt.
An exception is in status epilepticus, when a seizure either keeps going for more than 5 minutes or recurs many times in a short period. It may be provoked after abruptly stopping antiseizure medication. You should call an ambulance if this happens.
Different types of seizures
Epileptic seizures are classified according to their particular characteristics. Classification takes into account where the seizure starts, the person's awareness, and other features of the seizure.
The seizure may be classified based on where it begins in the brain. For example, focal seizures start in one specific area, while generalized seizures can start on both sides of the brain.
The person's awareness during the seizure can also be used to describe and classify the seizure. People may be aware, meaning they don't lose consciousness or have impaired awareness. Other features used to classified seizures include the presence of movements during the seizure.
Epilepsy has a number of sexual and reproductive complications that we don't fully understand. Nearly one-third of epileptic men suffer from erectile dysfunction, and many epileptic women complain of dry vagina, painful contractions during sex, or low libido.
About 4% to 6% of babies born to women with epilepsy have a birth defect. This compares to about a 2% to 3% chance in the rest of the population. It's known that antiepileptic medications are responsible for at least some of the extra birth defects. The defects can be minor or easily corrected by surgery (malformed fingers, cleft lip, or palate), but occasionally more serious problems such as spina bifida can occur.