What are Complex Partial Seizures?
Complex partial seizures are the most common type of seizure for adults, although children experience them too. They often begin with an aura, which is a warning of an impending seizure. Auras can be experienced in many different ways such as a strange smell, taste, sound, or visual disturbance. Some people describe an unexplained feeling of fear or anxiety. Others say that they sense that everything seems strangely familiar as if it has all happened before (déjà vu), or that things seem strangely unfamiliar (jamais vu). Partial complex seizures can occur within any lobe inside the brain, yet they most commonly occur in the frontal or temporal lobes.
What Happens During a Complex Partial Seizure?
During the seizure, the person does not experience a total loss of consciousness, but many people experience an altered level of consciousness or awareness. This is often due to the seizure activity spreading throughout other areas of the brain from its point of origin. To the outside observer, the person may look lost in thought or as though they are daydreaming. Frequently, people experience automatisms, which are repetitive movements such as rubbing the fingers together constantly, picking motions or lip smacking.
Symptoms of Complex Partial Seizures in Adults
The symptoms of complex partial seizures in adults may be the following:
- Experience an aura that may last anywhere from 5 seconds up to 15 seconds
- Groggy for a bit after the seizure subsides, typically within 30 seconds to 2 minutes
- Trouble speaking or swallowing in the moments following a complex partial seizure
When to See your Doctor
If you are concerned about complex partial seizures affecting your daily life or if you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor. Your health care provider will want to know what the episodes are like, how often they occur and how long they last. Your doctor will also want to know about any recent injury, illness, or any new medication you are taking. Physical examinations, along with an EEG test are the most common ways to diagnose complex partial seizures. For many people, the cause of this type of seizure may be difficult to determine.
Treatments for Complex Partial Seizures
There is no universally recognized treatment method for complex partial seizures. Yet preventative seizure medications (anti-epileptic drugs) are often used by many patients with success. Treatment is tailored to the patient according to the unique symptoms that they report or experience. Sometimes surgery, dietary alteration or vagus nerve stimulation is used to treat the condition. It is important to be treated because when left untreated, complex partial seizures can lead to injury, memory impairment and, in rare cases, death.
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