Petit Mal (Absences)
There are two types of Petit Mal, or absence : the typical and
If the brain was damaged atypical absences will occur, if not, typical will
There is a short loss of consciousness, without spasms in a typical absence.
The epileptic person stares in front of himself, pale-faced, the eye-lids
trembling – he is absent. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish this from
‘daydreaming’ and straying in thought. Most of the times, an absence will be
short of duration – about thirty seconds long. It often occurs with children and
disappears relatively frequently before adulthood.
Absences that are of a longer duration will affect the epileptic person in
the end. They might result in a lack of coordination. The epileptic person might
start to waddle, something might be dropped, the mouth might fall open, and the
head might drop forward. Next, there is confusion and there is no recollection
of what has preceded : retrograde amnesia. An absence that takes some time could
eventually evolve into a Grand Mal seizure.
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Myoclonic and Clonic Seizures
Almost every adult person has at one moment or other had the experience of a
limb that was trembling or shaking during the sleep. This shaking does not
immediately imply the presence of epilepsy.
On the other hand, a very nervous tic to serious shaking might indicate the
presence of epilepsy. These will sometimes be accompanied by absences and might
be followed by seizures of Grand Mal.
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Grand Mal Seizures (Tonic-Clonic)
There is a large misconception about epilepsy. Mostly, if you tell someone
“I am epileptic”, one will immediately think of the Grand Mal
seizures. This kind is the most spectacular and consequently stands out the
most. But seizures of Grand Mal, or Tonic Clonic, are not occurring that
These seizures consist of two phases. They start with an aura : the epileptic
person will be submitted to strange sensations. He might e.g. experience an odd
feeling in the stomach, a bad taste, flashing lights, etc. An aura doesn’t last
long, seconds, but just long enough. It might just be long enough for the
epileptic person to take the necessary precautions before the next phase to
Unconsciousness will be instant as soon as the tonic phase starts. The
muscles are contracted spasmodic during this phase of the Grand Mal seizure. The
body will become stiff due to this, it will cause the epileptic person to fall
down, because the leg muscles will also be tightened.
The lungs are being pumped empty : the tightened muscles at the chest are
pressing down the thorax and as a consequence breathing will be stopped
momentarily. Due to lack of oxygen, the epileptic’s face will turn blue-grey.
There is an emission of breath which causes a cry. All muscles will be tense
during the seizure. There is no pain during the seizure.
About twenty to thirty seconds afterwards, respiration will resume. This is
the start of the clonic phase. The muscles are now continuously contracting and
unwinding. The body will start to tremble first, followed by severe
Fractures might occur due to the severity of the spasms made by the epileptic
person. It also happens that the anal sphincter unwinds. But what is noticed
more frequently are drooling and biting on one’s tongue.
Finally, a few minutes later the frequency and the severity of spasms will
diminish. Consciousness will soon be regained. There epileptic person might be
feeling a bit weak or sleepy. The fall and the convulsions could have cause some
headache or numbness in the limbs. There might also be some other injuries, but
in general this turns better out than may be expected.
It might occur that a one-sided paralysis follows a Grand Mal seizure – this
condition can last up to 36 hours. The condition is better known as Todd’s
pareses and is often noticed with children. You might also observe a kind of
long period of confusion: a kind of “twilight situation”. The
movements of the epileptic might be as if it concerns someone who is drunk and,
if, encountered with opposition, a violent reaction can be expected.
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Partial (Focal) seizure
There are two types: simple and complex partial seizures.
Simple partial seizures.
This type of seizures can be found under different shapes. The epileptic will
experience strange perceptions : prickles, tingles, noises, strange sensations.
There sometimes is a short paralysis.
Jackson epilepsy. This type is an evolution of a spasm that started in e.g.
the spasm. The seizure gradually extends itself at the side of the body where
the spasm started.
Complex partial seizures.
With this type of seizure the epileptic also has an aura – a foreboding – and
thus can take the time to take the necessary precautions. The seizure can
consist of making grimaces, roaring with laughter, smacking one’s lips, making
swallow movements with one’s mouth.
About twenty to thirty seconds later these actions are followed by purposely
wandering about and peculiar arm gestures. Sometimes this type of seizure might
evolve into a Grand Mal seizure.
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