From TCW Nurse Mary: Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

Epilepsy is a disorder that results from the surges in electrical signals inside the brain, causing recurring seizures. Seizure symptoms vary. About 1 in 100 people in the United States will experience an unprovoked seizure once in life. Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in brain cells, seizures can affect any process you’re your brain coordinates. A seizure can produce: temporary confusion, a staring spell, uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs or loss of consciousness. Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time.

When seizures appear to result from abnormal brain activity in just one part of the brain, they are called focal or partial seizures. Simple focal seizures do not result in loss of consciousness. They may alter the way things look, smell, feel, taste, or sound. They may also result in involuntary jerking of part of the body, such as an arm or leg. Complex focal seizures alter consciousness or awareness, causing you to lose awareness for a period of time. Complex focal seizures often result in staring and nonpurposeful
movements-such as hand rubbing, chewing, swallowing or walking in circles.

Generalized seizures seem to involve all of the brain. There are six types of generalized seizures. Absence seizures are also called petit mal seizures and are characterized by staring and subtle body movements, and can cause a brief loss of awareness.

Tonic seizures cause stiffening of the muscles, generally those in the back, arms and legs and can cause you to fall down.

Clonic seizures are associated with rhythmic jerking muscle contractions, usually affecting the arms, neck and face.

Myoclonic seizures usually appear as sudden brief jerks or twitches of your arms and legs. Atonic seizures cause you to lose normal muscle tone and suddenly drop or fall down.

Tonic-clonic seizures are also called grand mal seizures and are the most intense of all types of seizures, these are characterized by a loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking.

Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half of those that have the condition. In the other half, the condition may be traced to genetic influence, head trauma, medical disorders, developmental disorders, or diseases. Risk factors include age, sex, family history, head injuries, vascular disease, brain infections and prolonged seizures in childhood. Complications of having a seizure can be dangerous to yourself and others and can include falling, drowning, car accidents and complications in pregnancy.

Mary Cote, Head Nurse at The Children's Workshop, joined the team in March, 2004. She attended CCRI for Practical Nursing, St Joseph Hospital School of Nursing, and Providence College.  Her experience with children includes working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Woman and Infants Hospital, the Pediatric Recovery Room at Fatima Hospital, and the Pediatric Allergy Unit at University Otolaryngology. Mary’s favorite thing about working with children is laughter!