A simple partial seizure is a type of seizure associated with epilepsy. It may also be referred to as a focal seizure. Epilepsy is a condition that causes multiple seizures, and the seizures can be of any type.
A simple partial seizure will affect only one area of your brain. It doesn’t cause you to lose consciousness. It’s also very quick, typically lasting only a minute or two.
The symptoms of a simple partial seizure can be subtle. But some external symptoms can occur and be seen by someone watching. These symptoms will not always occur, as each seizure and person is different.
Some external symptoms may be:
- emotions changing abruptly without cause
- laughing or crying for no reason
- a jerk or spasm of a single part of the body, usually a leg or arm
- difficulty speaking or speaking in nonsensible ways
The person having the seizure will not lose consciousness or awareness of their surroundings. Most of the symptoms associated with simple partial seizure are internal and only noticed by the person having the seizure. These symptoms may include:
- changes in how something might taste, feel, look, or sound
- distorted vision of items around you or of your own body
- smelling an odd odor
- tingling sensation in parts of your body, usually the arms or legs
- feeling like there are butterflies in your stomach
- seeing flashing lights
- feeling afraid or extremely happy suddenly for no reason
- a feeling of deja vu
Causes and triggers
Triggers of an epileptic seizure of any kind, including simple partial seizures, can be different for each person. You may not always know what triggers you. The best way to find out what your triggers are is to document what happened before the seizure. Write down what you were doing, what was happening around you, and what you were feeling before each seizure.
Stress is the most common trigger. Others include:
- taking your antiseizure medication irregularly
- other medications, such as antibiotics and pain medication
- flashing lights (more common for larger seizures)
- being about to start a menstrual cycle
What to do and how to treat it
If you are with someone that you think is having a simple partial seizure, there are some steps you should take. Many times, these small seizures are a warning that a bigger seizure is coming.
First, you can help the person find a place to sit or lie down that is safe. It should be away from anything that may hurt them if and when a larger seizure occurs. A person having a simple partial seizure will usually be aware and able to act, speak, and function, so you should always ask them how you can help them or what they need.
The treatment for this type of seizure varies from person to person. It depends on the number of occurrences, the severity of symptoms, and other factors your doctor will consider. Your doctor may recommend:
- antiseizure medications
- certain brain surgeries
- devices that use low-level electrical charges
When to see a doctor
You should contact a medical professional immediately if you have this type or any other type of seizure, or you are with someone that does, and you:
- have never had a seizure before
- have a high fever
- are pregnant
- have diabetes
- become injured during the seizure
- may have heat exhaustion
- have a seizure that continues for more than five minutes
- stop breathing or do not regain consciousness following the seizure
- have another seizure right after the first one
Simple partial seizures are small, quick, and sometimes undetectable even by those close to you. However, they are usually due to epilepsy and may be a warning sign that a bigger seizure is coming soon.
With your doctor’s help, epilepsy can usually be treated and managed. Work closely with your doctor and follow your treatment plan. These steps are key to controlling the symptoms of epilepsy, including simple partial seizures.