What are Partial Seizures?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2019
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Partial seizures are seizures that are confined to a specific region of the brain. They can take a variety of forms and there are several different types, classified by certain key characteristics of the seizure event. Many people with epilepsy experience partial seizures, sometimes as preludes to generalized seizures that involve the whole brain. In all cases, the seizure can be mapped on an electroencephalogram that will show abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

In simple partial seizures, electrical activity in one area of the brain is disrupted and the patient can experience an assortment of symptoms while retaining consciousness and a memory of the event. Involuntary movements like twitching can occur along with slurred speech, deja vu, and hallucinations. Sometimes the simple partial seizure develops into a generalized seizure or a complex partial seizure, in which case it is referred to as an aura. The sensory disturbances experienced during the aura can be a warning that a more serious seizure is about to onset, giving the patient time to get into a safe position.

Complex partial seizures involve loss or impairment of consciousness during the seizure. The symptoms can be the same but they also include gaps in memory or forgetting completely about the seizure. Because of the loss of consciousness, such seizures can be dangerous. If a seizure strikes before a patient becomes aware and the patient is engaged in a risky activity, it may endanger the person or people in the area.


When partial seizures proceed to a generalized seizure, the patient is said to have partial seizures secondarily generalized. Some seizure disorders are characterized by this type of seizure, where the patient experiences an aura before a generalized seizure like a tonic-clonic seizure occurs. Patients with temporal lobe epilepsy are most likely to experience partial seizures. Neurological studies can be used to learn more about the specifics of a patient's seizure disorder.

There are treatments available for partial seizures. People who notice symptoms that might be signs of seizure activity should seek an evaluation with a neurologist. Medical testing can be run to learn more about the patient's brain function, while a physical exam and other diagnostic tests may be used to rule out potential causes of the symptoms that are not related to the brain. If the patient does have a form of epilepsy, medications and other options may be available for controlling or managing it.



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