Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Partial (focal) seizure

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:

References

Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC. Bradley’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 67.

Updated: 2/27/2013

Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles and Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com