Most Americans hear "seizure" and envision a loss of muscle control. But there are many kinds of "seizures".

When a Japanese hears "発作" do they also imagine a loss of muscle control? Some seizures are as benign as a temporary loss of awareness of one's surroundings.


発作 by itself refers to a sudden "attack" of symptom, and it is used with various diseases:

  • A [喘息]{ぜん・そく} (asthma) の発作 causes breathlessness.
  • A 痛風 (gout) の発作 causes severe foot pain.
  • 心臓発作 refers to heart attacks, typically due to angina pectoris.

Epileptic seizure is specifically called てんかん発作, where てんかん is epilepsy (disease name). Sometimes てんかん by itself can refer to individual seizure episodes, although it's technically incorrect.

What people imagine with てんかん発作 depends on how much they know about epilepsy and seizures. There are probably many people who only know the "grand mal" type (known as 大発作 in Japanese). Professional healthcare providers might wonder "What kind of 発作 are you talking about?" Here is the list of 発作 of epilepsy, written in Japanese.

Finally, けいれん is the word that refers to involuntary and spastic muscle movements (symptom name; caused by various diseases).

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