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Partial (focal) seizure: Symptoms & Signs

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Symptoms & Signs

Patients with focal seizures can have any of the symptoms below, depending on where in the brain the seizure starts.

Patients with simple focal seizures do not lose consciousness and will be aware of and remember the events that occur at the time.

Patients with complex partial seizures will have abnormal consciousness and may or may not remember any or all of the symptoms or events surrounding the seizure.

  • Abnormal muscle contraction
    • Muscle contraction/relaxation (clonic activity) — common
    • Affects one side of the body (leg, part of the face, or other area)
    • Abnormal head movements
    • Forced turning of the head
  • Complex, repetitive movements (such as picking at clothes) — these are called automatisms and include:
    • Abnormal mouth movements
    • Lip smacking
    • Behaviors that seem to be a habit
    • Chewing/swallowing without cause
  • Forced turning of the eyes
  • Abnormal sensations
    • Numbness, tingling, crawling sensation (like ants crawling on the skin)
    • May occur in only one part of the body, or may spread
    • May occur with or without motor symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Flushed face
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate/pulse

Other symptoms:

  • Blackout spells — periods of time lost from memory
  • Changes in vision
  • Sensation of deja vu
  • Changes in mood or emotion

Pictures & Images

Central nervous system and peripheral nervous system


Review Date : 3/28/2009
Reviewed By : Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Previously reviewed by Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. (6/19/08)

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