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Partial (focal) seizure

Focal seizure; Jacksonian seizure; Seizure - partial (focal); Temporal lobe seizure; Epilepsy - partial seizures

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:

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Causes

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

Symptoms

People 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:

Exams and Tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam. This will include a detailed look at the brain and nervous system.

An EEG (electroencephalogram) will be done to check the electrical activity in the brain. People with seizures often have abnormal electrical activity seen on this test. In some cases, the test shows the area in the brain where the seizures start. The brain may appear normal after a seizure or between seizures.

Blood tests may also be ordered to check for other health problems that may be causing the seizures.

Head CT or MRI scan may be done to find the cause and location of the problem in the brain.

Treatment

Treatment for partial focal seizures includes medicines, changes in lifestyle for adults and children, such as activity and diet, and sometimes surgery. Your doctor can tell you more about these options.

Related Information

Seizures
Generalized tonic-clonic seizure
Epilepsy
Aspiration pneumonia
Stroke
Epilepsy in adults - what to ask your doctor
Epilepsy in children - what to ask your doctor

References

Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 101.

Kanner AM, Ashman E, Gloss D, et al. Practice guideline update summary: efficacy and tolerability of the new antiepileptic drugs I: treatment of new-onset epilepsy: Report of the Guideline Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Neurology. 2018;91(2):74-81. PMID: 29898971 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29898971/.

Wiebe S. The epilepsies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 375.

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Review Date: 2/4/2020  

Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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