What are focal seizures?

Focal seizures, which are also sometimes called partial seizures, happen in just one area of the brain. These types of seizures happen to about 60 percent of people who have epilepsy.

Focal seizures can be simple or complex. In a simple focal seizure, the person maintains consciousness, but has abnormal feelings or sensations. A person experiencing this kind of seizure might sense things that are not there. A simple focal seizure sometimes can be an aura, or a signal that a complex focal seizure is about to come.

A complex focal seizure involves a loss of consciousness. The person experiencing this kind of seizure enters a dreamlike state.

An observer watching someone experiencing a complex focal seizure may see the person engaging in repetitive behaviors such as a walking in a circle, blinking or twitching.

Focal seizures take place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas on one side of the brain. Focal seizures may also be called partial seizures. With focal seizures, particularly with complex focal seizures, a person may experience an aura before the seizure occurs. An aura is a strange feeling, either consisting of visual changes, hearing abnormalities, or changes in the sense of smell.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.