Complex Partial Seizures


A seizure happens when electrical activity in the brain surges suddenly. The brain and body are affected in different ways depending on where the activity occurs. Epilepsy is a condition that is linked to seizures.

Complex partial seizures (CPS) are the most common type of epilepsy in adults. These seizures can last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.

People having this type of seizure may appear to be daydreaming or staring blankly. They may not be aware of their surroundings. They may also make some movements, such as chewing or blinking.

Some people often have auras, a type of partial seizure, before having a CPS.


Someone experiencing CPS will often have a blank stare while the seizure is occurring. Other symptoms include:

  • Lip smacking
  • Eyelid flutters
  • Chewing
  • Finger rubbing
  • Small movements of both hands
  • Other less common symptoms may include:
  • Repeating words or phrases
  • Laughing
  • Screaming
  • Crying

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of CPS is often unknown. In some cases, a change in certain genes may cause the condition.

Seizures are usually more common in boys than girls.

Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation, and flickering lights can trigger seizures.


The most useful test in diagnosing seizures is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This records electrical activity in the brain. EEG can show unusual electrical activity patterns. Different types of seizures can be identified with these patterns.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to study the condition. These images can also show where the seizure is happening in the brain. The scans can also rule out other possible causes such as a stroke.


Medication is the most common treatment for CPS. Anti-seizure (or anti-epileptic) medications can be very helpful. It may take a few tries to find the right drug and the right dose. The doctor will monitor for side effects to find the best option. These medications include:

  • Levireacetam
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal) has fewer side effects than the other two medications but may also be less helpful
  • Lacosamide
  • Zonegram
  • Depakote

Many children who begin having seizures by the age of 9 will grow out of the condition by the time they are 18. If the patient is free of seizures for two years, their doctor may slowly reduce the amount of medication they are taking until no more medication is needed.

Certain types of epilepsy may be controlled with a ketogenic diet. This is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet used most often for children who have not responded to medications.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Looking for a Physician?

Choose a doctor and schedule an appointment.

Looking for Virtual Care?

Get the care you need from world-class medical providers working with advanced technology.

Want More Information?

Cedars-Sinai has a range of comprehensive treatment options.

Need Help?


Available 7 days a week, 6 am - 9 pm PT

Need Help?


Looking for a Physician

Choose a doctor and schedule an appointment.