Focal (partial) seizures

Focal seizures are those where the electrical disturbance is focussed in just one part of the brain.

This means that the type of seizure will depend on exactly where in the brain it comes from, and what functions that area of the brain is responsible for.

NB Young Epilepsy are currently reviewing our information portfolio which will be updated in October 2023.

"Lobe" simply means rounded or sticking out area and ‘temporal’ comes from the Latin for time.

Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common type of epilepsy to cause focal seizures. The temporal lobes are responsible for language, feelings, emotions and memory.

This type of epilepsy means that seizures may cause a sudden strange mix of feelings, emotions, or thoughts which can be very unsettling, since we’re used to being able to make sense of our feelings and thoughts.

Other symptoms may include fumbling or plucking at clothes, wandering off in a confused state or unusual speech.

Frontal lobe epilepsy is the second most common type after temporal lobe epilepsy.

Seizures coming from the frontal lobe will vary depending on which part is involved. They usually that start suddenly and end just as quickly.

They may produce weakness in certain muscles, including those used to speak.

Seizures usually happen during sleep, and they can be quite dramatic as the person may head turn, thrash around or have cycling movements of the legs. Because of their strange nature, frontal lobe seizures can be misdiagnosed as nonepileptic seizures.

The frontal lobes are large and include many areas that do not have an exact known function. This means that when a seizure begins in these areas, there may be no symptoms until it spreads to other areas or to most of the brain, causing a tonic-clonic seizure.

The word 'parietal' comes from the Latin word for wall, so in this context it means the side walls to the brain. Parietal lobe seizures are rare.

Seizures coming from the parietal area usually result in strange sensations and know as sensory seizures. These may include a tingling, or warmness, and they often happen only down one side of the body.

Some people say their arms and legs feel bigger or smaller than usual, and areas of the body might go numb.

There is a risk of misdiagnosis as the symptoms can be strange or even showing an often normal EEG even when during a seizure.

Seizures occurring in the occipital lobe are not common, but they affect your sight. Symptoms might include seeing patterns, flashing lights or colours, or images that appear to repeat before the eyes.

There may be other visual effects as well, e.g. partial blindness may occur. The eyes may move or jerk uncontrollably from side to side, the eyelids may flutter, and there may be some pain in the eyes.

Severe headaches often occur during or after an episode; in many cases, the condition is mistaken for migraines due to these headaches and the corresponding visual cues.

Also in this section

More information about epilepsy

Epilepsy syndromes

A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms which, if they occur together, can suggest a particular condition

Epilepsy & contraception

It is important that all teenagers are given information about the effects of AEDs on contraception and pregnancy before they become sexually active

Epilepsy & pregnancy

Some medication can have an effect on the development of the baby so it's important that you discuss planning a pregnancy with your consultant, epilepsy nurse or GP

Causes of epilepsy

The causes of epilepsy generally falls into three groups; genetic, structural/metabolic or unknown

Diagnosing epilepsy

Getting a diagnosis of epilepsy can often take some time. Only until there have been two or more seizures that a diagnosis of epilepsy will be considered

Epilepsy treatment

The main aim of treating epilepsy is to improve the person's quality of life by preventing seizures but also causing minimum side effects