There are many different types of seizures and terms to describe them, which can make learning about seizures challenging if your little one is experiencing this condition. A generalized seizure is one of the two primary categories of seizures, along with focal seizures, describing the part of the brain where the event originates.
We’re sharing the following guide to help you gain a clear picture of generalized seizures, including the subtypes, signs, and treatment steps for this condition.
What Is a Generalized Seizure?
Seizures of all types happen when there is a disruption in the normal transmission of electrical signals in the brain. These electrical impulses enable thought, sensation, and motor function to travel through our neurons and synapses, and throughout the body through the nervous system. During a seizure, electrical signals become stuck or loop repeatedly.
A generalized seizure occurs when the abnormal electrical activity that causes a seizure occurs on both sides of the brain at the same time. This is in contrast to focal seizures, which develop in one part of the brain — although focal seizures can progress into generalized seizures.
There are different subtypes of generalized seizures, which can cause a range of symptoms and reactions. In many cases, a generalized seizure will result in loss of consciousness, but this isn’t always the case.
Types of Generalized Seizures & Common Signs
The primary types of generalized seizures include:
Absence seizures: These used to be known as “petit mal” seizures, and cause a brief loss of awareness that can be mistaken for daydreaming or inattentiveness.
Tonic and Clonic seizures: This is the type of seizure that most people associate with the condition. These are seizures with two distinct phases — a tonic or stiffening phase followed by a clonic phase involving spasms and jerking. Foaming, saliva, grunting, and breathing difficulties may accompany a tonic-clonic episode.
Myoclonic seizures: During these seizures, people will generally experience a jolt and muscle stiffening, almost as if being jolted with electricity. When myoclonic seizures occur in bouts, they can cause involuntary spasms that are potentially harmful.
Atonic seizures: Also known as drop attacks, atonic seizures occur when electrical abnormalities in the brain cause the muscles to suddenly loosen. This can result in a person collapsing suddenly.
Epileptic spasm (infantile spasms): consists of brief (1-3 second) events of arm, leg, and head flexion (arms and legs pull into the body) or extension. Spasms typically occur in clusters with events every five to ten seconds over a five to ten minute period. The spasms often are seen shortly after waking, and clusters typically are seen several times per day.
Any type of generalized seizure should be taken seriously and requires a thorough evaluation to diagnose the underlying cause. The most well-known seizure disorder is epilepsy, but there are actually other conditions and illnesses that can cause generalized and focal seizures.
While doctors and medical researchers are working to better understand what causes seizures, conditions like epilepsy are believed to be related to certain genetic markers in the brain.
Diagnosing Generalized Seizures or Other Seizures
To diagnose the cause of any kind of seizure, including generalized seizures, doctors will generally perform a careful review of personal and family medical history, conduct a physical examination, and order any necessary diagnostic testing or imagery. Diagnosing generalized seizures typically involves electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) to detect abnormal brain activity and rule out the potential for other abnormalities, such as a tumor.
Generalized Seizures Treatment Options
Because of the wide range of causes, types, and symptoms of generalized seizures, treatment requires a personalized approach. Most treatment plans will involve prescriptions for anti-seizure medications. Finding the right type of drug treatment may require some level of trial and error depending on effectiveness and side effects.
Another common treatment approach for generalized seizures involves dietary and nutritional changes. Some diets, such as a ketogenic diet, have been demonstrated to help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. It is important to make any dietary changes under the close supervision of a qualified physician or dietician.
Children with generalized seizures also benefit from mental health counseling and therapy to navigate the emotional and behavioral challenges that can come with a seizure disorder. A counselor can help your child learn effective coping strategies for seizures and their aftermath.
Caring for a Child with Generalized Seizures
Your child needs a safe and healthy environment to achieve the best outcome for dealing with seizures. Many families choose the assistance of a nurse to help provide care. Pediatric home health services can help with the needs of children with generalized seizures in a variety of ways, including assistance administering medication, providing 1:1 care and supervising the environment, and providing physician-ordered treatments such as seizure assessment and treatment.
Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida
It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.
Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.
If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.