Focal epilepsy involves recurrent focal seizures, which affect only one area of your brain. These seizures tend to be less severe than seizures that affect both sides of your brain.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects about
Focal epilepsy is the most common type of epilepsy. People with this type of epilepsy experience focal seizures, which may or may not cause them to lose consciousness. Some research suggests that focal seizures affect up to
In this article, we take a deeper look at focal epilepsy, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Focal epilepsy involves recurrent seizures that are mainly focal seizures. It’s the most common form of epilepsy in both children and adults. Roughly
During focal seizures, you may be aware or may have impaired awareness. Aware focal seizures affect only one area of your brain and don’t cause loss of consciousness. Impaired awareness focal seizures affect a larger section of your brain and cause loss of consciousness.
A seizure is an uncontrolled burst of electrical information in your brain that can cause symptoms such as:
- muscle stiffness
- loss of muscle control
- jerking movements
- loss of consciousness
Epilepsy involves recurring seizures. To receive a diagnosis of epilepsy, you must have at least two unprovoked seizures occurring more than 24 hours apart or one seizure with a high likelihood of having another.
Epilepsy can cause focal aware or focal impaired awareness seizures.
You don’t lose consciousness during focal aware seizures. They tend to last less than 2 minutes. During this time, you may feel like you’re frozen and be unable to respond to other people.
Symptoms depend on where in your brain the seizure begins, but they can include:
- changes in senses such as taste and smell
- muscle twitching
- eye movements
- a strange feeling going through your head
- numbness or tingling in your limbs
- a feeling that your arm or leg is smaller than usual
- a feeling of déjà vu
- sudden, intense fear or joy
- the sensation of seeing flashing lights
If you have an impaired awareness seizure, your consciousness will be affected. You may be able to hear people but not fully understand what they’re saying or be able to respond.
Symptoms might include:
- a blank stare
- eyelid fluttering
- hand or finger movements
When is a seizure an emergency?
Most seizures don’t require emergency medical attention. But the
Centers for Disease Control and Preventionrecommends seeking emergency attention if you or somebody you’re with:
- has a seizure for the first time
- has an underlying condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or pregnancy and experiences a seizure
- has a seizure in water
- sustains an injury during a seizure
- has a second seizure shortly after the first
- experiences a seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes
- has trouble breathing after a seizure
The exact cause of focal epilepsy is often not known. Potential
Doctors cannot diagnose epilepsy by performing just one test. They make the diagnosis by asking you about your personal and family medical history and performing tests such as:
- a routine electroencephalogram (EEG)
- prolonged video-EEG monitoring
- a neurological exam, which involves testing your:
- ability to walk and move
- mental functions
- imaging tests such as:
- blood tests
In addition to tests used to help diagnose focal epilepsy, healthcare professionals may use the following tests to plan treatment options such as surgery:
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan
- intracranial monitoring, which involves inserting electrodes into your brain
Antiseizure medications are the primary treatment for focal epilepsy. These medications are effective at treating seizures in about
People who don’t have improvement in their seizures after trying at least
- temporal lobe
This procedure has success rates of 60–70%.
Some children who don’t respond to antiseizure medications see improvement after adopting a ketogenic diet, which involves restricting carbohydrates.
First aid is usually not needed for focal seizures since they don’t typically cause loss of consciousness. Ways you can help someone who is having a focal seizure include:
- removing harmful objects
- keeping them away from flames, bodies of water, and unsafe areas
- helping them sit down to avoid falling
- stopping activities that could lead to injury
In North America, epilepsy is more common among
Epilepsy also affects males slightly more often than females.
Focal epilepsy often has a good outlook when treated with medications or surgery. Focal seizures have a lower chance of causing injury than generalized seizures, which involve both sides of your brain.
Many children with focal epilepsy outgrow it and remain seizure-free throughout their lives. On average, children with focal epilepsy have an
Can you have a high quality of life with focal epilepsy?
Many people with focal epilepsy can have a high quality of life with medications. Many people whose epilepsy doesn’t respond to medications experience improvements with surgery.
What does focal epilepsy feel like?
Focal epilepsy can feel different from person to person, depending on which part of the brain is affected. People often describe:
- experiencing muscle stiffness
- seeing flashing lights
- feeling numbness or tingling in their limbs
Will I lose consciousness during my seizures?
You will stay conscious during focal aware seizures but lose consciousness during focal impaired awareness seizures.
Focal epilepsy involves repeated focal seizures that affect only one area of your brain. It’s the most common type of epilepsy in adults and children.
Many people with focal epilepsy experience seizure relief with medications. You may need to try several types of medication before finding one that works for you.