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Epilepsy: Symptoms and Causes - NEET PG Medicine

Feb 14, 2023

Epilepsy Symptoms and Causes - NEET PG Medicine

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that affects millions of people around the world, and therefore it is considered an important topic for medical PG exams. Studying epilepsy in the context of the NEET PG exam is rooted in its high prevalence, clinical relevance, diagnostic challenges, and therapeutic options.

In this blog, we have touched upon some important details about this high-yield medicine topic. Read on.


Epilepsy and seizures are not the same thing. Seizure means abnormal electrical activity due to some metabolic cause. Epilepsy is 2 or more than 2 unprovoked seizures. Convulsion is motor manifestation of seizure.

  • International league against epilepsy (ILAE) 2017 classified epilepsy as focal seizures (earlier named as partial seizures). There are of the following types - 
    • Focal seizures with intact awareness
    • Focal seizures with impaired awareness.
    • Motor or Non-motor
      • Non motor means hallucinations e.g.: gustatory hallucinations, smell of burning kerosene or burning rubber, complex hallucinations in temporal lobe epilepsy.
      • Motor focal seizures include: Lip smacking, picking movements, automatism.
    • Generalized onset
      • Tonic-clonic
      • Myoclonic
      • Absence
  • Generalized tonic clonic seizures- tonic means tone will increase and a person will give out a loud cry (ictal cry), after that patient falls. In clonus, there is intermittent relaxation also. So initially there is stiffness and after that there will be jerking movement and in between jerking movements muscles will relax. Most GTCS episodes terminate by themselves within one minute. Do not restrain the patient during GTCS as it may cause soft tissue injuries in this patient.
  • Myoclonus: involuntary sudden jerky movement of limbs.
  • Absence seizures: characterized by vacant staring spells.
  • 5-10 % of the normal population will have at least one seizure with highest incidence in childhood/late adulthood. Overall incidence of epilepsy: 0.3-0.5%



  • Prodromal features

AURA is seen.

Aura is visual blurring seen in migraine or focal seizures. (aura is not seen in GTCS)

Triggered by sight of blood, or on pain

  • Loss of consciousness

Minutes to hours

Few seconds to minutes.

  • Tonic clonic movements

Occurs for 30-60 seconds

Occurs for less than 15 seconds.

  • Facial appearance

Perioral cyanosis

Circum-oral paleness

  • Tongue bite



  • Disorientation



  • Urinary incontinence



  • Headache



  • Aching muscles


Important information
Serum PROLACTIN level rises after an episode of convulsion.

Also Read: Myocardial Infarction - Neet PG Medicine

Drugs Used in Epilepsy

Generalized onset tonic Clonic


Typical absence

Atypical absence, Myoclonic, Atonic


  • Lamotrigine
  • Valproic acid
  • Lamotrigine
  • Carbamazepine
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Eslicarbazepine
  • Phenytoin
  • Levetiracetam
  • Valproic acid
  • Ethosuximide
  • Lamotrigine
  • Valproic acid
  • Lamotrigine
  • Topiramate
  • In GTCS lamotrigine and valproate are given. Lamotrigine: side effects are Steven Johnson syndrome (SJS). Hence, lamotrigine is started at the lowest possible dose. Upon development of skin rash lamotrigine is stopped immediately. Valproate is highly teratogenic (7-20%). It causes neural tube defects. Hence it is not used in pregnancy. In pregnancy with GTCS lamotrigine or levetiracetam are used. 
  • Carbamazepine: causes leukopenia, aplastic anemia, hepatotoxicity as a side effect. So, in a patient of liver damage carbamazepine is not given instead oxcarbazepine is given. Eslicarbazepine is given once/day. Phenytoin: phenytoin has nonlinear pharmacokinetics. So, toxicity can develop very fast, hence it is less preferred. Levetiracetam: It is used in elderly individuals due to lack of drug-to-drug interactions 
  • In absence seizures the first line drug is Valproate, but if the age of child is less than 5 years ethosuximide is used.

NEET PG Question Bank

When to Stop Epilepsy Medication?

Epilepsy medication can be stopped in the following scenarios - 

1. Complete medical control for 1-5 years.

2. Single seizure type 

3. Normal CNS examination including intelligence

4. No family history 

5. Normal EEG

  • Reasonable to attempt withdrawal after 2 years if all of above are satisfied. Sudden stoppage of Anti-epilepsy medications can lead to rebound epilepsy (frequency, severity and duration of epilepsy can increase).
Important information
Lennox-gastaut syndrome: Multiple seizure types in an individual

Also Read: EPILEPSY AND Electroencephalography (EEG) : NEET PG Medicine

Pregnancy and Epilepsy

  • Valproate and topiramate are not used. All anti-epileptic drugs are teratogenic. But the most teratogenic drug is valproate (7-20% adverse fetal outcome).  Phenytoin, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine causes decrease in vitamin K dependent clotting factors. This can increase the risk of hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. Safest antiepileptic drugs in pregnancy are levetiracetam and lamotrigine. If the patient comes in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, continue the same anti-epileptic drug.
  • Drug in breast milk /Drug in serum 
    • For valproate it is 5%
    • Levetiracetam: 300%
  • Continue anti-epileptic drug in breastfeeding also, but watch for drowsiness and lethargy of baby, if excessive decrease the dose.

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