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
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.
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:
- Abnormal muscle contraction, such as abnormal head movements
- Staring spells, sometimes with repetitive movements such as picking at clothes or lip smacking
- Eyes moving from side to side
- Abnormal sensations, such as numbness, tingling, crawling sensation (like ants crawling on the skin)
- Hallucinations – seeing, smelling, or sometimes hearing things that are not there
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Flushed face
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart rate/pulse
Other symptoms may include:
Focal seizure; Jacksonian seizure; Seizure - partial (focal); Temporal lobe seizure; Epilepsy - partial seizures
Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC.Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice.
Wiebe S. The epilepsies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Goldman's Cecil Medicine
Update Date 2/20/2014
Updated by: 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.