Focal seizures are a type of seizure commonly experienced by people with epilepsy. Although people who have a brain infection or tumor, or have had an injury or stroke, can experience these, too. A seizure happens if there is a surge of electrical activity in the brain due to nerves firing out sudden and excessive signals. Focal seizures typically begin in one side of the brain. The symptoms of a focal seizure can vary depending on which part of the brain is affected and can affect the motor, sensory, and autonomic parts of the brain.
A doctor will be able to identify from which part of the brain the seizure originates based on the patient’s symptoms. A focal seizure is called a partial seizure if it affects part of the brain, and the person is aware of their surroundings during it. A person can also experience a complex focal seizure, where they have impaired awareness during the event.
Simple Focal Seizure
During a simple focal seizure, the person remains fully aware of their surroundings and is alert and able to recall events that happen during the seizure. A focal seizure usually lasts two minutes at most, so caregivers should be quick to identify its symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- Dilated pupils
- Sweating, flushed skin
- Remaining frozen and unable to respond to others
- Unusual, jerking movements involving the face, foot, and arm
- Muscle contractions affecting one side of the body, followed by relaxation
- Problems with hearing
- Hallucinations; a feeling of something crawling on the skin
- Distortion of sense of taste or smell
- Changes in blood pressure, heart rhythm, and bowel and bladder function
- Sudden feelings of fear or anxiety
- Abdominal pain
A complex focal seizure can occur after a simple focal seizure.
Complex Focal Seizure
In a complex focal seizure or focal onset impaired awareness seizure, the patient can feel disoriented and lose full awareness of their surroundings. Someone undergoing this will not be able to answer questions directed at them. They will also not remember what happened during the incident.
A complex focal seizure is usually preceded by a simple focal seizure or an aura. Similarly, it occurs in just one part of the brain. Symptoms of a complex focal seizure include:
- Dilated pupils
- Flushed skin
- Staring blankly into space as if in a daydream
- Unable to move despite being aware of what is happening around them
- A feeling of deja-vu
- Repetition of involuntary movements or automatisms, such as lip-smacking, picking at clothes, grunting, fumbling, gulping, etc.
Complex focal seizures, although initially affecting one side of the brain, can spread to the other parts, and it can take the patient hours to return to normal.
Epilepsy Treatment in Southeast Michigan
Patients with epilepsy can manage focal seizures with a comprehensive treatment program. At Associates in Neurology, our board-certified neurologists help patients live great lives despite their neurological condition. We treat patients with epilepsy and help reduce, if not prevent, the occurrence of seizures using a combination of treatment methods. We also provide support to families of loved ones who have epilepsy, improving not just the quality of life of the patient but also their caregivers.