Partial-onset seizures

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What are partial-onset seizures?

A partial-onset seizure is a type of seizure that starts when there is abnormal activity in only one part of the brain. These may also be called focal seizures. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 60% of people with epilepsy experience partial onset seizures. There are different types of partial-onset seizures: simple, complex and secondarily generalized.

What are simple partial seizures?

Simple partial seizures occur when the person having the seizure does not go unconscious and remains fully aware. Simple partial seizures may cause:

  • Muscle jerking, stiffening, or twitching
  • Altered senses: smelling, tasting, seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there
  • Suddenly experiencing a sense of fear, depression, or happiness
  • Change in heart rate or breathing, sweating, or goosebumps

What are complex partial seizures?

Complex partial seizures occur when the person having the seizure loses some awareness. It is possible to go unconscious during a complex partial seizure. A person experiencing a complex partial seizure may:

  • Stare blankly or seem to be daydreaming, dazed, or confused
  • Pick at their clothes or at the air
  • Repeat words or phrases or be unable to respond to others for a few minutes

What are secondarily generalized seizures?

Secondarily generalized seizures occur when the abnormal brain activity that starts in one part of the brain as a partial seizure spreads to affect both sides of the brain.

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