Focal seizures take place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas of one side of the brain. Focal seizures may also be called partial seizures. With focal seizures, particularly with complex focal seizures, a person may experience an aura, or premonition, before the seizure occurs. The most common aura involves feelings, such as deja vu, impending doom, fear, or euphoria. Changes in vision, hearing, or sense of smell can also be auras.
Two types of focal seizures include:
Simple focal seizures. The person may have different symptoms depending on which area of the brain is involved. If the abnormal electrical brain function is in the occipital lobe (the back part of the brain that is involved with vision), sight may be altered, but muscles are more commonly affected. The seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group, such as the fingers, or to larger muscles in the arms and legs. Consciousness is not lost in this type of seizure. The person may also experience sweating, nausea, or become pale.
Complex focal seizures. This type of seizure commonly occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain, the area of the brain that controls emotion and memory function. Consciousness is usually lost during these seizures. Losing consciousness may not mean that a person passes out. Sometimes, a person stops being aware of what's going on around him or her. The person may look awake, but may have a variety of unusual behaviors. These behaviors may range from gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying, and/or laughing. When the person regains consciousness, he or she may complain of being tired or sleepy after the seizure. This is called the postictal period.
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