Generalized Seizures

Unlike focal seizures, generalized seizures are not confined to just one side of the brain. The types of generalized seizures are explained below. Click the thumbnail of the EEG images to view the full-sized image.

Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (also called grand mal seizures)

Generalized tonic-clonic seizuresGeneralized tonic-clonic seizures are characterized by five distinct phases that occur in the child. The body, arms, and legs will flex (contract), extend (straighten out), tremor (shake), a clonic period (contraction and relaxation of the muscles), followed by the postictal period. During the postictal period, the child may be sleepy, have problems with vision or speech, and may have a bad headache, fatigue, or body aches.

Tonic seizures

Tonic seizuresTonic seizures usually last less than 20 seconds. The child’s muscle tone increases and the body and limbs make sudden stiffening movements. These seizures most often occur during sleep.

Clonic seizures

With clonic seizures, the child’s muscle(s) jerk repeatedly. These movements cannot be controlled by restraining the child or repositioning the arms and legs.


Myoclonic seizures

Myoclonic seizuresThis type of seizure refers to quick movements or sudden jerking of a group of muscles. Myoclonic seizures tend to occur in clusters, meaning that they may occur several times a day, or for several days in a row.

Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures)

Absence seizuresThese seizures are characterized by a brief altered state of consciousness and staring episodes. Typically the child's posture is maintained during the seizure. The mouth or face may move or the eyes may blink. An absence seizure usually lasts no longer than 30 seconds. When the seizure is over, the child may not recall what just occurred and may go on with his/her activities, acting as though nothing happened.

Atonic seizures (also called drop attacks)

Atonic seizuresWith atonic seizures, there is a sudden loss of muscle tone and the child may fall from a standing position or suddenly drop his/her head. During the seizure, the child is limp and unresponsive

Learn more about the most common epilepsy syndromes we treat.

Contact the Epilepsy Center

To make a referral, schedule an appointment, or request an evaluation for a child or teen, call at 412-692-7833.