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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 divided into:

  • 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; Epilepsy - partial seizures

Causes

Partial seizures are the most common type of seizure in persons 1 year and older. In persons older than 65 who have blood vessel disease of the brain, partial seizures are very common.

Symptoms

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

Depending on where in the brain the seizure starts, symptoms can include:

Other symptoms may include:

  • Blackout spells -- periods of time lost from memory
  • Changes in vision
  • Sensation of déjà vu (feeling like current place and time have been experienced before)
  • Changes in mood or emotion
  • Temporary inability to speak

Treatment

For information on diagnosis and treatment, see:

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.

Wiebe S. The epilepsies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 410.

Updated: 2/20/2014

Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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