What Are Partial Seizures?

Partial seizures are a type of seizure that only involve one area of the brain.

A seizure is brief disorganized, irregular, and abnormal electrical discharges of neurons in brain and can affect anyone worldwide, at any age and any background. If seizure occurs repeatedly, the diagnosis of epilepsy is made based on the underlying condition. Seizures are classified by the areas of the brain that they affect and how they manifest.

Partial, or focal, seizures originate from a localized area of the brain and the clinical features of these seizures are based on the focal area involvement. Partial seizures are divided in two types:

  • simple partial seizures
  • complex partial seizures

If found to have this type of seizure, your healthcare provider will determine what type of medication is right for you and will treat you appropriately.

Simple Partial Seizures

During a simple partial seizure, the individual is usually conscious during the seizure. Simple partial seizures can bring forth focal motor, focal sensory, or autonomic symptoms. Focal motor seizures involve the area of brain that controls motor activity. They usually manifest as tonic-clonic movements of the opposite side of the body. These tonic-clonic movements can also occur in the face and extremities or can increasingly spread to the other parts of the body. From time to time, individuals experiencing a focal motor seizure may encounter a brief period of weakness in the affected area, which could last momentarily or last longer.

Focal sensory seizures can originate from any sensory parts of the brain and the symptoms may vary, depending upon the sensory areas involved. Individuals may often feel tingling sensation on the opposite side of the body, or feel ringing or buzzing in the ear.

Autonomic-type seizures often manifest as flushing, sweating, and the appearance of goose bumps.

Complex Partial Seizures

A complex partial seizure is typically characterized by an impairment of consciousness — in other words, individuals experiencing this type are seizure are not aware of their surroundings. Complex partial seizures can affect young children and adults. The seizures can arise any area of the brain; however, they commonly arise in the front and the side areas of the brain, known as frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, respectively. Individuals with complex partial seizures often feel an aura at the beginning and this is the first symptom of the attack. The symptoms vary and may include, perception of foul odor, abnormal taste, feeling of familiarity in an unfamiliar place, feeling of unfamiliarity in a familiar place, lip smacking, chewing, and showing rubbing hands or brushing one’s hair without being aware of their actions.


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Kasper et al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 16th ed.

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