What are the different types of partial seizures?

The different types of partial seizures, also known as focal seizures, include the following:

  • simple partial seizures (typically with jerking movements of body, arm, face or other body part without loss of consciousness during seizure)
  • complex partial seizures (commonly preceded by an aura, associated with temporal lobe activity and resulting in loss of consciousness)
  • partial seizures (any of the above) that then become generalized

Focal seizures (or partial seizures) take place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas on one side of the brain. Two types of focal seizures include the following:

  • Simple partial seizures: These seizures typically last less than one minute. The person may show different symptoms depending upon which area of the brain is involved. If the abnormal electrical brain function is in the occipital lobe (the back part of the brain that is involved with vision), sight may be altered. If the abnormal brain function is in the frontal lobe (the front part of the brain that is involved with muscle or motor movement), the person's muscles are typically affected. The seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group, such as the fingers, or to larger muscles in the arms and legs. Consciousness is not lost in this type of seizure. The person may also experience sweating or nausea, or become pale.
  • Complex partial seizures: This type of seizure commonly occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain, the area of the brain that controls emotion and memory function. This seizure usually lasts between one to two minutes. Consciousness is usually lost during these seizures, and a variety of behaviors can occur. These behaviors may include gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying and/or laughing. When the person regains consciousness, he/she may complain of being tired or sleepy after the seizure. This is called the postictal period.

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