Definition

All seizures are caused by abnormal electrical disturbances in the brain. Partial (focal) seizures occur when this electrical activity remains in a limited area of the brain. The seizures can sometimes turn into generalized seizures, which affect the whole brain. This is called secondary generalization.

Partial seizures can be further characterized as:

  • Simple — not affecting awareness or memory
  • Complex — affecting awareness or memory of events before, during, and immediately after the seizure, and affecting behavior

Alternative Names

Focal seizure; Jacksonian seizure; Seizure – partial (focal); Temporal lobe seizure

Symptoms

Patients with focal seizures can have any of the symptoms below, depending on where in the brain the seizure starts.

Patients with simple focal seizures do not lose consciousness. They will be aware of and remember the events that occur at the time.

Patients with complex partial seizures may or may not remember any or all of the symptoms or events during the seizure.

Symptoms can include:

  • Abnormal muscle contraction
    • Muscle contraction/relaxation (clonic activity) — common
    • Affects one side of the body (leg, part of the face, or other area)
    • Abnormal head movements
    • Forced turning of the head
  • Staring spells, with or without complex, repetitive movements (such as picking at clothes) — these are called automatisms and include:
    • Abnormal mouth movements
    • Lip smacking
    • Behaviors that seem to be a habit
    • Chewing/swallowing without cause
  • Forced turning of the eyes
  • Abnormal sensations
    • Numbness, tingling, crawling sensation (like ants crawling on the skin)
    • May occur in only one part of the body, or may spread
    • May occur with or without motor symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Flushed face
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate/pulse

Other symptoms include:

  • Blackout spells — periods of time lost from memory
  • Changes in vision
  • Sensation of deja vu
  • Changes in mood or emotion

Related:Epilepsy – what to ask your doctor – adult, Epilepsy – what to ask your doctor – child, Seizures, Generalized tonic-clonic seizure, Epilepsy, Aspiration pneumonia, Stroke

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