In partial seizures the electrical disturbance is limited to a specific area of one cerebral hemisphere (side of the brain). Partial seizures are subdivided into simple partial seizures (in which consciousness or awareness is retained) and complex partial seizures (in which consciousness is impaired or lost). Partial seizures may spread or progress to a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, in which case the classification category is partial seizures secondarily generalized.
Partial seizures are the most common type of seizure experienced by people with epilepsy. Virtually any movement, sensory or emotional symptom can occur as part of a partial seizure, including complex visual or auditory hallucinations.
Type Duration Seizure Symptoms, and Postictal (post-seizure) Symptoms
Simple Partial: 30-60 seconds, no loss of consciousness, sudden jerking, sensory phenomena, transient weakness or loss of sensation
Complex Partial: 1 to 2 minutes, may have aura (or warning – most typical is sensation in stomach), automatisms (such as lip smacking, picking at clothes, fumbling), unaware of environment, may wander, amnesia for seizure events, mild to moderate confusion during, sleepy after
Key Things to Remember about Partial Seizures
Although partial seizures affect different physical, emotional, or sensory functions of the brain, they have some things in common:
- They don't last long. Most last only a minute or two, although people may be confused and need a lot more time (2 to 30 minutes) afterwards to recover fully.
- They end naturally. Except in rare cases, the brain has its own way of bringing the seizure safely to an end after a minute or two.
- You can't stop them. In an emergency, doctors may use drugs to bring a lengthy, non-stop seizure to an end. However, the average person should wait for the seizure to run its course and try to protect the person from harm while consciousness is clouded. People who have been shown how to use a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) magnet may try to stop a seizure in that way.
- They are not dangerous to others. The movements produced by a seizure are almost always too vague, too unorganized and too confused to threaten the safety of anyone else.