This section is about symptoms of focal seizures that happen in the different lobes (areas) of your brain.
Focal seizures starting in the temporal lobes are common.
The temporal lobes are responsible for many functions. Some examples of these functions are hearing, speech, memory, and emotions.
Here are some common symptoms of focal seizures in the temporal lobes
- Flushing, sweating, going very pale, having a churning feeling in your stomach
- Seeing things as smaller or bigger than they really are
- Seeing or hearing something that is not actually happening
- Smelling non-existent smells
- Tasting non-existent tastes
- Feeling frightened, panicky, sad or happy
- Feeling detached from what is going on around you
- Feeling sick
- Having vivid memory ‘flashbacks’
- Having an intense feeling of ‘deja vu’, when you are convinced you have experienced something before – even when you haven’t
- Being unable to recognise things that are very familiar to you - sometimes referred to as ‘jamais vu’
- Chewing, smacking your lips, swallowing or scratching your head
- Fumbling with your buttons or removing items of your clothing
- Wandering off, without any awareness of what you are doing, or where you are going
Focal seizures starting in the frontal lobes are common.
Your frontal lobes are responsible for many different functions. These include movement, emotions, memory, language, and social and sexual behaviour. The frontal lobes are also considered to be home to your personality.
Not all frontal lobe seizures will be noticed by an onlooker. However, some frontal lobe seizures can look quite dramatic and unusual. Because of this it is common for them to be wrongly diagnosed as something other than epilepsy.
Here are some common symptoms of focal seizures in the frontal lobes
- Turning your head to one side
- Your arms or hands becoming stiff and drawing upwards
- Cycling movements of your legs
- Thrashing of your arms
- Carrying out strange and complicated body movements
- Having problems speaking or understanding
- Experiencing sexual feelings and showing sexual behaviour
- Screaming, swearing or crying out
- Losing control of your bladder and/or bowels
A particular type of frontal lobe seizure is a ‘Jacksonian’ seizure. This is usually brief and consists of jerking or trembling movement. These begin in a finger and then slowly march upwards to the whole hand and arm. Afterwards, there could be a short period of muscle weakness.
Following a focal seizure, particularly a frontal lobe seizure, some people have what is known as Todd’s paralysis or Todd’s paresis. This is paralysis, lasting from minutes to hours, in the area of your body that was involved in the seizure.
Focal seizures starting in the parietal lobes are uncommon.
The parietal lobes are responsible for your bodily sensations. Focal seizures in this part of your brain cause strange physical feelings. A tingling or warm feeling down one side of your body is typical. These types of seizures are also known as ‘sensory’ seizures.
Focal seizures starting in the occipital lobes are uncommon.
The occipital lobes are responsible for your vision. Focal seizures happening in this part of your brain affect the way you see things. Seeing flashes, or balls of light, or having brief loss of vision, are typical symptoms.
Some people have a warning - known as an aura - that they are about to have a tonic-clonic seizure. The warning is usually very brief and, if you have a warning, you tend to have the same warning every time. This warning is, in fact, epileptic activity in a part of your brain (a focal seizure). Once the epileptic activity spreads to both halves of your brain, you have a tonic-clonic seizure. If you have a warning, you tend to have the same warning every time. And the warning is usually brief.
The warning can be very useful, as it may give you time to get to a place of safety, or to alert someone else that you are going to have a seizure. Sometimes, however, the epileptic activity spreads to both halves of your brain so quickly that you appear to go straight into a tonic-clonic seizure.
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Updated August 2013To be reviewed August 2015