Partial Seizures


A partial seizure happens when unusual electrical activity affects a small area of the brain. These types of seizures are also called focal seizures.

Partial seizures are divided into two categories:

  • Simple – these do not affect awareness
  • Complex – these affect awareness and consciousness

Simple focal seizures are also known as auras.


Symptoms of partial seizures are:

  • Muscle tightening
  • Unusual head movements
  • Blank stares
  • Eyes moving from side to side
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Skin crawling (like ants crawling on the skin)
  • Hallucinations- seeing, smelling, or hearing things that are not there
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Flushed face
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate/pulse
  • Lost time or blacking out
  • Changes in vision
  • Feeling déjà vu (feeling like current place and time have been experienced before)
  • Changes in mood or emotion
  • Unable to speak for a short while

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of seizures is often unknown.

Certain diseases involving the blood vessels of the brain can raise the risk of partial seizures in patients 65 years of age and older.


The most useful way to diagnose seizures and epilepsy is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This test records electrical activity in the brain. It can show abnormal spikes or waves in electrical activity patterns. Different types of epilepsy can be identified with these patterns.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may also be used. The scans can reveal scar tissue, tumors or problems in the brain. It can also rule out other possible causes such as a stroke.


For many people with partial seizures, correct treatment can lower or prevent seizures. In some cases, patients may not have any more seizures for the rest of their life.

Partial and generalized seizures are often treated differently. Treatment is based on:

  • The type of seizure
  • How often seizures happen
  • How severe the seizures are
  • The patient's age
  • The patient's overall health
  • The patient's medical history

Anti-seizure (or anti-epileptic) medications can be very helpful. It may take a few tries to get the right medicine and dose. The doctor will watch for side effects to find the best treatment.

Surgery may be an option if medication can't control the seizures.

Certain lifestyle changes may also be used:

  • Special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet (ketogenic diet)
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoiding certain triggers, such as flickering lights

© 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.
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