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Focal seizures

When an epileptic seizure starts in one side of the brain, it’s called a focal onset seizure or a focal seizure. Both terms mean the same thing. Until recently these seizures were called partial seizures.

What are the different types of focal seizure?

There are many different types of focal seizure, but they can be split into two main types according to what level of awareness you have during the seizure.

Focal aware seizures

During a focal aware seizure, you stay fully aware of what’s happening around you, even if you can’t move or respond. This type of seizure used to be called a simple partial seizure.

Focal impaired awareness seizures

If your awareness of what’s happening around you is affected at any time during your seizure, it’s called a focal impaired awareness seizure. This type of seizure used to be called a complex partial seizure.

Motor or non-motor

Doctors may also use the words motor or non-motor to describe focal seizures. Focal motor describes focal seizures where the main symptoms involve muscle activity, such as jerking, loss of muscle tone or repeated movements. Focal non-motor describes seizures where the main symptoms don’t involve muscle activity. They can include things like changes in emotions, thinking and sensations.

What happens during a focal seizure?

What happens during a focal seizure depends on which area (lobe) of the brain is affected, and whether the seizure spreads to affect other areas. Some people just experience one symptom during a focal seizure, while others experience several.

Frontal lobes

The symptoms of frontal lobe seizures can sometimes be mistaken for mental health problems or sleep disorders. Some people who have frontal lobe seizures only have them in their sleep. They are usually brief, but often happen in clusters, with several happening in a short space of time. Your awareness may or may not be affected.

Symptoms of seizures in the frontal lobes can include:

  • Pelvic thrusting, kicking, pedalling, thrashing or rocking movements
  • Screaming, swearing or laughing
  • Unintentionally passing urine (urinary incontinence)
  • Your head or eyes turning to one side
  • Having unusual body movements, such as stretching one arm while the other bends
  • Twitching, jerking or stiffening of muscles in one area of your body. The movements may sometimes spread bit by bit to other areas

Occiptal lobes

Seizures starting in the occipital lobe often spread to involve other lobes.

Symptoms of seizures starting in the occipital lobe include:

  • Seeing flashing lights, colours or simple patterns
  • Seeing more complex images, such as pictures of people, animals or scenes
  • Not being able to see as well as usual, or not being able to see at all
  • Having eye movements you can’t control, such as your eyes closing, moving to one side or rapidly moving from side-to-side
  • Eyelid fluttering

Parietal lobes

Seizures starting in the parietal lobe often spread to involve other lobes.

Symptoms of seizures starting in the parietal lobes can include:

  • Having feelings of numbness or tingling
  • Prickling, crawling or electric-shock sensations, which may spread along the affected body part
  • Sensations of burning, cold or pain
  • Feeling like part or all of your body is moving or floating
  • Feeling like a body part has shrunk, enlarged or is missing
  • Sexual sensations
  • Difficulty understanding language, reading, writing or doing simple maths
  • Seeing things as larger or smaller than they really are, or seeing things that aren’t there

Temporal lobes

If you have been diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) it means you have seizures starting in one or other of the temporal lobes. Seizures starting in the temporal lobes are usually focal impaired awareness seizures, but focal aware seizures can also happen. You might start the seizure being aware of what’s happening, and then lose awareness as the seizure progresses.

Symptoms of seizures in the temporal lobes include:

  • Feeling frightened
  • Feeling like what’s happening has happened before (deja vu)
  • Hearing things that aren’t there
  • Experiencing an unpleasant taste or smell
  • Having a rising sensation in your stomach
  • Lip smacking, repeated swallowing or chewing
  • Changes to your skin tone or heart rate
  • Automatic behaviours such as fidgeting, undressing, running or walking

After a temporal lobe seizure you are likely to be confused, and may find it hard to speak for a short time.

How long do focal seizures last?

Most focal aware seizures are brief, lasting between a few seconds and 2 minutes. Focal impaired awareness seizures usually last between one and 2 minutes.

What happens after a focal seizure?

What happens after a focal seizure varies from person to person. You might feel fine after a focal seizure and be able to get back to what you were doing straight away. Or you might feel confused or tired for some time afterwards. You might need to sleep.

Some people find they have temporary weakness or can’t move part of their body after they’ve had a seizure. This is called Todd’s paresis or Todd’s paralysis. It can last from a few minutes up to 36 hours, before going away.

How can someone help me during a focal seizure?

You might not need any help from people around you during a focal seizure, especially if it’s brief and you’re aware of what’s happening. But if you’re not aware of what you’re doing you might need help to guide you away from danger and keep you safe. See our first aid information, or ask them to take our short online course which shows them what to do when someone has a seizure.

See this information with references

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.


Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, for this contribution to this information.

Dr Leach has declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.

  • Updated July 2019
    To be reviewed July 2022

Comments: read the 54 comments or add yours


My son has a brain malformation and symptomatic epilepsy. He’s just started with focal impaired awareness seizures which like his tonic colonics are prolonged. He’s not written up for emergency meds for this type in his care plan but at what point should I be very concerned that not resolving. One was a 40min seizure, at what point should I get an ambulance. I’ve spoken to epilepsy nurse but all very vague

Submitted by Rebecca Tugby on

Hi Rebecca

Although a focal seizure doesn’t have the same level of danger as a tonic-clonic one, it would still be a good idea to call an ambulance if it goes on longer than 30 minutes.

This is the guidance we’ve had from a neurologist. Hope that helps.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I have had 'episodes' regularly, but spaced out by up to 9 months since I can remember. I used to wake in the first hour of sleep and have a deep all encompassing fear and feel a restriction in my throat (the fear was as if I was the only person left on the planet). Over the past 6-7 years, this has progressed to a number of periods where I zone out for up to 4 hours but I am still aware of my surroundings, but it's as if my mind is constantly searching for the answer to a very important question, that is on the tip of my tongue and it takes over completely. I also experience very strong deja vu and have done all my life. I have been tested twice for TLE which came up negative (EEG and MRI). I had a long episode a few days ago and it has left me feeling weak and light-headed and scared it will happen again. I also suffer from severe but thankfully intermittent migraine.

Submitted by Daniel on

Hi Daniel

That sounds like a very frightening experience.

I don’t know whether or not you have epilepsy but it is worth knowing that it is entirely possible to have  a clear EEG and MRI and still have epilepsy. Here is all our information about diagnosing epilepsy.

You have had some information about what doctors think it isn’t. But I am guessing you want some answers about what might actually be causing this.

My suggestion would be to go back to your GP and ask to be referred again. If you would prefer not to see the same consultant then it may be possible to request a different one.

I do hope you get some answers soon.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I have episodes of having a very horrible feeling that comes over me, a strong feeling of deja vu that makes me heave like im going to be sick. It only lasts a few seconds then its completely gone, Its affecting my memory quite badly. I forget directions to places ive been quite regularly, i can watch a film and then a short time later i can watch it again and its like ive never seen it before. I'd be really greatful if you could give me any opinions you have on the symptoms ive stated.
Thank you

Submitted by Clare Moule on


From what you’ve described it’s possible that you could be having focal seizures, however we’re not able to diagnose your symptoms. It would be a good idea to speak to your doctor about the episodes you’ve been having and the memory problems. If the doctor suspects you could have epilepsy, they should refer you to an epilepsy specialist. This is usually a neurologist with experience of diagnosing and treating epilepsy.

I hope this helps. If you need any further advice feel free to call our Epilepsy Action Helpline on 0808 800 5050, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm.


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Recently every day I’ve had like de ja vu visions when I try to think hard to recognise the people my mind goes blank I get confused after the 2minutes and I forget what I was doing my arms and legs start to ache and my head I just wanted to ask if I am getting a partial seizure will it get worse with time or will it get better? I am always worried and started to get anxiety 😭 I have a appointment at the hospital end of July

Submitted by Unknown on

I am 45 years old and just diagnosed with focal onset epilepsy, I’ve had the same ‘funny feeling’ for years but over the last three months I have had three tonic clinic episodes, my consultant says that these funny feelings I’ve had for years are epilepsy what I don’t understand is why it’s suddenly got worse and will I deteriorate further?

Submitted by Chris on

Hi Chris

Everybody’s epilepsy is different, but generally there’s nothing to suggest that epilepsy gets worse with age. Seizure patterns can be very unpredictable though.  For some people with epilepsy there are triggers that make seizures more likely. For example; tiredness, lack of sleep or stress (https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/triggers). So if you’re going through a stressful time or not sleeping well your epilepsy can get worse.   I hope now that you’re seeing an epilepsy specialist things improve for you soon.





Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Jess-Epilepsy Action on

Hi, I have been diagnosed with NEAD and have just downloaded a seizure diary app so I can keep a track of my seizures. Do you know if the seizure types are the same as epilepsy as there doesn’t seem to be a specific one for NEAD. Also I would like to download/print a sheet that explains the types of seizures for my family as they/I know nothing about them. So ideally a simple format with titles/types of seizure and descriptions of typical symptoms according to type.

Thank you


Submitted by Claudine Delacour on

Hi Claudine 

It can be difficult to understand about NEAD or dissociative seizures as we call them. I have linked you to our information. We have tried to write it in as straightforward a way as possible.

Dissociative seizures can take many forms depending on the individual. And they probably don’t correspond very closely to descriptions of epileptic seizures. So the best thing would be maybe to describe your own seizure types, as well as you can.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hi I saw a neurologist a couple of years ago and due to my symptoms he seems to think I have focal aware seizures. I am awake through every one of them. It starts with what I call a “wave of dizziness” which seems to be vertigo and then my right leg starts shaking and my right hand gets fidgety. It only last about 2-3 minutes but I am fully conscious. EEG was normal and so was mri when it was done at the beginning. Neurologist is only going based on my symptoms but sometimes they seem to be all over the place. The only ones that are constant when I have a seizure is the right leg shaking. Could it be something else? I take carbamazepine but I am on such a low dosage.

Submitted by Jamie on

Hi Jamie

Focal aware seizures can have a wide range of symptoms, but most people have a particular set of symptoms that are generally the same from one seizure to another. It’s common for epilepsy to be diagnosed from a description of someone’s symptoms. Tests such as EEG and MRI can provide useful information to help the neurologist make their diagnosis, but if the results are normal this doesn’t rule out epilepsy. This is because an EEG only shows what’s happening at the time it’s being done. And many people with epilepsy have a normal MRI.

As you’re still having symptoms despite taking carbamazepine it would be a good idea to see a neurologist to review your treatment. The neurologist might advise trying a higher dose or different medicine to see if this helps. If you don’t currently see a neurologist about your epilepsy, your GP will be able to refer you to one.

Focal seizure symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other conditions, for example anxiety. If you’re concerned that your symptoms might be due to something else it would be best to discuss this with your neurologist.

I hope this helps.


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I need help!
My name is Charlotte, I get this deja vu impending doom feeling that makes me nauseous after it's over and nobody is helping me I saw a specialist that took exrays of my brain but at the time I wasn't having them so came back as negative. I just got into a car accident yesterday from having those déjà vu's all day and while driving to work fully lost consciousness for a few minutes and came back to a pile wreck of cars.
Everyone is sick of hearing about my problems but they just got worst so I'm reaching out to whoever cares and will help . Thanks.

Submitted by Charlotte on

Hi there Charlotte,
Please don't drive and go to your GP and ask to be referred for an EEG test. Explain what has happened.
I had two accidents in a car and it was only after a head injury at work that things got bad enough for me to seek help.
So, I can understand where you are at with this.
But first port of call is the GP.
I hope that you were not badly hurt, and wish you the best of luck. X

Submitted by Emma on

Dear Charlotte


Thank you for your comment.


It must be difficult not knowing for sure what is causing your symptoms.


Some other medical conditions can cause symptoms similar to epilepsy. This can make it difficult to diagnose. So, an epilepsy specialist will make a diagnosis based mainly on your symptoms.

They may arrange for you to have some tests that can include EEG tests and possibly an MRI scan. None of these tests can prove that you do or do not have epilepsy. But the results of these tests can sometimes give useful information, such as a possible cause of your epilepsy and the types of seizure you have.


You might consider asking for a second opinion. You don’t have a legal right to a second opinion, but if you ask for one your GP or specialist should consider your request.

There are 2 ways you can ask for a second opinion:

  • Ask your current specialist to arrange for you to see someone else
  • Ask your GP to refer you to a different specialist.



If you don’t already, it would be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms to share with any future specialist.



If we can be of any more help with this, please contact our helpline team directly. You can either email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk  or phone the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 5.30pm.





Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I have a 10 year old daughter she’s seen neurologist since she’s been 3 e.c. g.s all come back normal but lately she’s started complaining off a horrible taste in mouth flashing lights shaking arms and legs a feeling of being far away when this is happening but she can’t talk. I was told it could be epilepsy or it may not there thinking off doing another e.c.g I don’t know what to do for her her hand sometimes twitches I’m struggling what to do for her please could you advise.

Submitted by Sarah on

Hi Sarah

That must be quite distressing for your daughter.

I am guessing that the scan they are talking about is an EEG. If she is having epileptic activity happening in her brain (at the time of the scan) the EEG would pick this up. So it does sound like a good idea.

The symptoms you describe do sound like they could possibly be related to a seizure. But we wouldn’t be able to say for sure.

I do hope the doctors are able to decide what’s happening for her soon.




Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on


I have been diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder and have been living with this for the past six months. I suffer from seizures, some dissociative however mostly I'm fully present whilst these are happening, they also advise NEAD.

I'm not fully convinced with the NEAD diagnosis and I wonder if this is, in fact, epileptic focal seizures. I suffer from excessive eye flickering, jolting from my waist, my vision will intensively blur, my face will drop on one side sometimes and I twitch in my face a lot. It builds from a pressure type feeling, sometimes nausea and feeling off balance. I have had a clear MRI, however, no EEG as of yet.

I'm a really positive person, however, I'm slowly losing patience. These are happening daily, usually, last for a couple of minutes, sometimes multiple seizures in a day. I always lose my speech straight after, feel like I'm going slightly crazy with confusion and my strength kind of decreases.

I have tried so hard to just get on with it but its already a battle when you're under the FND umbrella, trying to ask them to look at everything else. The seizures are what trigger all my other symptoms, I operate pretty normally otherwise. I don't know what to do and don't know whether I try to ask my doctor to try anti-seizure medication. Its the one things that sets the loss of speech and strength off.

Submitted by Julie on

Hi Julie

Thanks for your message. Those symptoms sound distressing, and I can understand you want to find out what’s causing them.

Although they do sound like possible focal seizure symptoms, they also sound like possible symptoms of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). A lot of the symptoms of FND and epilepsy can look and feel very similar. This website, written by a neurologist, explains some of the symptoms of FND.

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’ve been having. If the doctor has any doubt about whether your symptoms are caused by FND or epilepsy, they may be able to arrange for you to have an EEG. If someone has an epileptic seizure during an EEG, the EEG will usually show abnormal brain activity. But if the seizures are not epileptic, it’s likely the EEG will be normal.

If the symptoms are not caused by epilepsy, then it’s very unlikely the doctor will recommend anti-seizure medication. But they should be able to suggest other treatments to help. The website FND Action has more information about possible treatments. 


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

My sister is epileptic and she is taking Topamax and Keppra. Last time she experienced a complete (not sure about the term) seizure was long time ago. But recently she is getting focal seizures in her left arm that is lasting for hours. It happened like 3 times in one week and last time we took her to ER and they have increased the medicine she is taking. Now after 3 days she is having the same focal seizure and it is lasting for long. What I have read here and everywhere else is that focal seizures last for few minutes only. Is this something else? Is there anything we can do when she get this kind of seizures? How dangerous is it?

Thanks in advance.

Submitted by Abdalla on

Hi Abdulla

Focal seizures do usually only last for a few seconds to a few minutes and stop without treatment. But sometimes seizures can last for longer, and if they last for over 5 minutes this is called status epilepticus. Any type of seizure can become status epilepticus.

When focal seizures last a long time it is called non-convulsive status epilepticus, and this isn’t dangerous. But someone with non-convulsive status epilepticus may still need treatment to stop their seizure. So if your sister has a focal seizure that is lasting a long time, it would be a good idea for her to speak to a medical professional for advice.


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team


Submitted by rich on

this is happening to my niece but nothing is diagnosed yet with epilepsy. Left arm goes redundant after her seizure.

did you find out anything more from your experience?

Submitted by Theo on


I was diagnosed with epilepsy last year, I am 38yrs old

I feel very lucky that I have had a seizure free life up until then

Now, I am losing parts of myself, my independence, identity and probably my job soon

It’s like being trapped between two worlds and not belonging to either one, I no longer recognise a world I used to love

It feels like I just shouldn’t be part of all this, I no longer feel I hold any value or serve any purpose

I am treated as though I am public property and spiralling

The seizures happen a lot, and I am desperately trying to carry on as normal, going to work and putting on that front

I am scared everyday, every time I leave my home I am scared,
I feel more at its mercy and reliant on the kindness of the people/ strangers around me if I have a seizure

I’m not sure how much front I have left,

The Keppra can be very difficult regardless of the epilepsy but I don’t recognise where the epilepsy line ends and the Keppra line begins

Work are taking formal action against me to offer me ‘support’, it’s just something else beyond my control.

Not sure how I can move forward

Utterly lost, Amanda x

Submitted by Dolly on

Hi Amanda


It does sounds like things are feeling very tough for you at the moment. There could be a few different reasons why you are feeling like you do:

  • Some of this could be the physical effects of the seizures. Hopefully you are still seeing a neurologist and they are continuing to explore ways to get you the best seizure control. If you think a seizure diary would help let us know and we can send you one.
  • Some of your feelings could be related to the Keppra. One of the possible side-effects of Keppra is mood swings. If the Keppra is having this side-effect and not controlling your seizures, then it may be worth discussing a possible change of medication with your neurologist. This would depend slightly on how long you have been taking the Keppra for. Ideally you would need to give it a few months to assess whether it was likely to start working for you.
  • Some of this could be the way some people respond to the diagnosis of a long term health condition. Often if this is the biggest struggle , then being in touch with other people in a similar situation can be really helpful. Have a look at the support we offer. And you may particularly want to check out our coffee and chat groups. And possibly our online community forum4e.


Here is all our information about wellbeing. Hopefully there are some suggestions in there that maybe useful.

And here is all our information about work and epilepsy. It is possible that together you may be able to identify something that could help you find the work situation more manageable.


Probably the most important thing is that you keep in touch with your family doctor about the way you’re feeling.


I really hope there is something in here that helps you move forward.





Epilepsy Action Helpline Team


Submitted by rich on

We have a question around whether to medicate our 2 year old daughter or not. She has been diagnosed with focal epilepsy after 13 seizures from age 12 months to 2yrs3 months. She has had 2 normal sleep EEGs, is developing normally, with no learning difficulties that we know of. She tends to have the seizures during illness, or periods of developmental growth, but it has now been 5 months since she had a seizure.

The doctor diagnosed her before christmas after meeting with a specialist and reviewing her case, and videos of her seizures, and has prescribed her Carbamazepine twice a day. She has also requested and MRI and another sleep EEG.

We aren't sure what to do now. I think the diagnosis is correct but jumping straight to medicating her seems hasty. After reading up on the medication, to put such a small child on such a strong medication, with so many side effects, when she hasn't had a seizure in 5 months doesn't seem right. I don't know if there's another reason we should be doing it? Does each seizure leave a long lasting damage?

Any advice is really welcomed.

Submitted by Emily on

Dear Emily

Thank you for contacting us. It can be a difficult time as a parent when you have to make the decision of whether your child takes medication or not.

Epilepsy is usually treated with epilepsy medicines. They don’t cure the epilepsy, but try to stop the seizures happening. They do this by changing the levels of chemicals in the brain that control electrical activity. Most doctors would recommend epilepsy medicine after a child has had more than one seizure or if they think the child may be at risk of further seizures.

Many parents worry about the possible side effects of epilepsy medicine. However, it’s worth remembering that those listed are only possible and, in some cases, very rare side effects that will not affect everyone who takes them. Most children will have few or relatively mild side effects or no side effects at all. If your daughter has mild side effects, you could mention them to her doctor. If she had a rare severe side effect, you could contact the doctor immediately for advice on what to do. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/children-young-adults/children

Some children can out grow their epilepsy, and after a few years of being seizure free can try coming off their medication.

If you choose not to start your daughter on medication, there is no research to suggest her epilepsy would become worse because of this. There are in fact parents who choose not to medicate their child, especially when their seizures are very infrequent. If seizures are infrequent, some parents may even wait until all the tests such as EEG and MRI are carried out before making a decision.

I wonder if you have been given an epilepsy nurse that you can talk to about this. Not all hospitals have epilepsy nurses so if you contact our helpline team directly with details of the hospital caring for your daughter, we will see if there is an epilepsy nurse based there.

Our freephone helpline, 0808 800 5050, is open Monday to Thursday 8.30am until 8.00pm, Friday 8.30am until 4.30pm and Saturday 10.00am until 4.00pm.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

My daughter has just recently been diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of fifteen, after having an episode early May this year (we found her on her bedroom floor in the middle of the night breathing heavy and unconscious) but was unsure what had happened until early October when she cried out before having a full tonic clonic seizure during the night, followed by a cluster of three tonic clonic seizures in late November when Keppra was prescribed. My daughter now takes 1250mg twice a day, and this seemed ok at the onset, although she was very tired. However last week (four days before her period) she said she woke up without her nightdress and had got up during the night and taken it off, she was very tired that day, she also mentioned that there had also been a couple of occasions when she had just got up and stood at her bedroom door but unsure why? Tonight l heard heavy breathing in her room and rushed in, she had stopped the heavy breathing by the time l had got to her room but her eyes were wide open and her speech was very slurred and said she felt tired and went back to sleep. I am awaiting a neurologist appointment next month and have left messages for the epilepsy nurse to get back to me.
I get so worried about her at night l end up staying awake all night just listening for her, l almost feel like l am going crazy. I just don’t know what to do to make this better.

Submitted by Sophie on

Hi Sophie

It can be very upsetting to watch someone you care about having seizures. And even more so if it’s your child.

One possibility is that what has been happening for your daughter is focal seizures. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/seizures/focal-seizures. A focal seizure is caused by epileptic activity only happening in one half of the brain. So it may be that the Keppra is working well for the tonic-clonic seizures https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/seizures/tonic-clonic  (where the epileptic activity affects both halves of the brain). But it might not quite be managing to control the focal seizures where the epileptic activity only happens in one half of the brain.

There is a range of possible reasons why the seizures could be happening. You might want to have a look at our information on possible seizure triggers for some ideas. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/triggers

It may also be that the Keppra dose is not quite high enough for her. Or that the addition of another epilepsy medicine would be enough to control the possible focal seizures.

Or if your daughter is having a pattern of seizures at the time of her period, then the doctor may want to consider an epilepsy medicine that would help at this specific time. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/women/your-periods-menstrual-cycle

Sometimes there is no obvious reason why someone has a seizure.

It’s great that your daughter has an epilepsy nurse. I’m sure they will get back to you as soon as they are able. And also good that she is likely to have a neurology appointment next month.

I know this is much easier for me to say, than for you to do, but everything would look much more manageable if you were able to get some sleep. Nothing feels possible when you’re dealing with sleep deprivation. And the more you feel able to function the more helpful that will be for your daughter.

Here is our information for young people: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/children-young-adults/young-people.Your daughter may be particularly interested in the online community for 13 to 19 year olds with epilepsy. It’s called the Tea room: http://www.thetea-room.com/ - an alternative is Reddit. http://www.reddit.com/r/epilepsy

I do hope there is some information here which helps you both to move forward.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I think i have focal aware seizures. If i get excited about something im aware of myself stopping what im doing, my eyes turn to the side and usually my hand goes ridgid. I can usually get myself out of this but can have several a day.
Ive had them for as long as i can remember, i used to shake when i did this as a child im now 48 and have never really told anyone. Do you think its seizures?

Submitted by Cat on

Hi Cat

It is possible that the episodes you described could be focal seizures.

You can be aware of your surroundings and what is happening when you have some types of focal seizures. Sometimes people find that they can just get on with what they are doing after a focal seizure. Some people find they have to rest.

For some people the episodes are always similar but some people can develop other types of seizures as well.

We have some information about how epilepsy is diagnosed here


If it’s helpful to talk through these episodes and what you might want to do you would be welcome to call or email us on the helpline




Epilepsy Action Helpline

Submitted by Mags-Epilepsy Action on

I just reasonably been diagnosed as a epelitic patient. I just learned that I have been having symptoms of epelitic siezures since I was a teenager. I experienced these symtoms occasionally, I never knew what they were, I always thought they were anxiety attacks. I experienced them more and more frequent, every 6-7 months, as l got older 55 years of age I started to have these anxiety attacks (seizures) more frequent, like every 2-3 months. When turned 57 years old I started to get them every month, like every 20 days, I would these attacks for 5-7 days straight and then all of a sudden the'll go away for 20 days striaght. During these 20 days I am normal as anyone else. When I was 58 years old I was experiencing symtoms of my usual anxiety attacks (seizures), while was sleeping I had a uncontrolled seizure, according to my wife I fell off the bed, my stiffen up and I was shaking out of control. I woke up on the floor, my head was bleeding, my wife and step daughter were looking down at me with the ambulance personell putting me onto a streacher. I finally went to see a Neurologist. During all my experiences with my anxiety attacks (siezures) I have written them all up in my computer and shared my anxiety attacks and siezure with my Doctor. I was diagnosed with epilepsy. As of today I am experimenting drugs that will help me with my siezure attacks. I never realized that i have been getting siezure attacks all my life from miner to mild attacks to a more severe attack that required a call to get assistence from a ambulance. I wish everyone well!..thanks for reading this experience with epilepsy and I hope everyone reading this gets treatment for their epilepsy. God bless you!

Submitted by Mel Iron Shirt on

Is thirst a factor in epilepsy, mainly focal seizures and would they last for 40 plus minutes? Thanks

Submitted by Jean Lawlor on

I'm 20 now but when I was in elementary, I remember getting these very strange feelings out of the blue, a lot of times at school but also at home where basically I would be having a normal day and then all of a sudden I would start to feel this strange feeling coming , and then it would hit me and once it did everything felt like deja vu, and I would just sit there and listen to everything around me because it was like I've heard it all before. I would be completely aware of everything but it was almost like being zoned out and sometimes I would try to talk to someone or say a random word outloud during this moment to try to get out of this weird trance but when I did, even what I would say sounded like deja vu. Looking back at these experiences I realized that during these episodes, sometimes but not all times, what people were saying around me didn't seem like how they would talk normally, like they would act very different and more "silly" if that makes sense. This feeling would last 1-2 mins and I would always have an unsettling feeling during them, and afterwards I would be extremely tired and even on the verge of crying because of how tired I became in the matter of minutes. I can only recall maybe 1-3 times I have gotten it during all of junior high but other than that I don't think I have gotten them since then so I'm not too worried about it. I have never went to the doctors over this because I don't think I realized what I was feeling due to me being really young during them, and so I never told my parents but I was just wondering, if this were a case of simple partial seizures, would it make sense for them to just stop happening over time? I still get the very rare occurrence of the feeling right before I get the episode of deja vu but it suddenly stops.

Submitted by Julia on

Hi Jean. What happens when someone has a focal seizure depends on where the seizure activity is happening in the brain. So it is possible that someone might experience thirst if the seizure is happening in the area of the brain which controls our unconscious responses such as thirst and hunger. There is some information here from the Epilepsy Foundation in America which suggests that someone might feel thirsty after a seizure as well.

It would be unusual though for this sensation of thirst to last for 40 minutes or more if it is a focal seizure. It could be worth noting what is happening and when and having a chat with your doctor about this.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hi Julia 

Some people who have epilepsy as a child do find that their seizures stop as they grow older. So it’s possible that if the episodes you experienced were seizures you could have ‘grown out’ of them. But if you still sometimes get the feeling you got before the déjà vu you may want to mention this to your doctor. I’m guessing you are in the United States. If so Epilepsy Foundation has more information about how epilepsy is diagnosed in the United States.


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

I was diagnosed with FAS last summer after months of recurrent bouts of a strong, hallucinaginic episodes, always the same, the first weekend accompanied by seven attacks of vertigo that sent me to the hospital. For months, for one reason and another, I went to doctors ENTs, primary care doctors, one of whom fired me when I objected to the fact that her office took a month to send a referral from one side of town to another. These started in early April last year. In October I finally saw a neurologist who prescribed Keppra. I started taking it and five weeks in my face swelled up, edema in pockets under my eyes, and I had a rash. I was able to get into my new primary doc immediately and she took me off Keppra and gave me steroid shots etc. After it calmed down she decided I needed to see an allergist. Saw allergist in late December, finally got tested in early February and started shots later that month. I saw the neurologist in February and was stunned to realize my primary had never told him she took me off Keppra. He was quite angry but said I should finish the shots and see him in three months. My question is what I should/can do about the FASs that hit me about once a day. They are much milder than at the beginning but disorienting and ultimately scary. Is this the proper course to take? My assumption is that they want to get my body to calm down enough from allergy and inflammation that I can tolerate the anti-seizure drugs. Does this sound rational. Is there anything I can do in the meantime to mitigate the FASs?

Submitted by Lyda Phillips on

Hi there. After seeing strobe lights, a few minutes after a had a non-motor focal seizure, and I felt very sick and cold, and was struggling to continue in the conversation I was having with my mom. My seizure lasted for about fifteen seconds and after I still felt super dizzy. I was trying to figure out for weeks which seizure I had but now it seems like I had a focal. Are there any cures or something that will help?

Submitted by Sydney on

Hi I’m Charlotte and I am 11 years old I have been diagnosed with benign rolandic epilepsy but I have been getting what can only be described as a seizure in my right arm that is uncontrollable and spreads to the side of my face.
And my arm doesn’t feel like it is mine. I also sometimes get this after have a seizure but I also get it even when I haven’t had a seizure. I am normally completely aware of what it is going on
But my arm feels like it’s not mine or like it’s missing.
I normally gat this about 5-10 minutes after waking up and have to get on the floor and lie on my arm in order to stop my arm from harming me.
I’m not sure whether what I have described is focal epilepsy which is why I would like your opinion.

Submitted by Charlotte Betts on

Dear Charlotte

Thank you for your post.

This sounds like a painful and scarey experience.

The seizures that happen when you have Benign Rolandic epilepsy are usually focal seizures. They start in the rolandic part of the brain

It’s possible for your symptoms to involve your face and maybe spread to the arm or the leg.

I hope you have spoken to someone about this. It may be your epilepsy specialist can alter your epilepsy medicine to help with this new symptom.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again. You can contact us directly, either by email helpline@epilepsy.org.uk or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. Our helpline is open Monday to Thursday 8.30am until 8.00pm, Friday 8.30am until 4.30pm and Saturday 10.00am until 4.00pm.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hello there. I recently had a seizure after seeing Incredibles 2. There were gaps in my speech and I felt very nauseous and dizzy. I was fully aware what was happening. After my seizure I still felt extremely dizzy. I was thinking is this a focal seizure or maybe just an absence seizure? I have not been diagnosed, but I was thinking should I get checked out or is this nothing major?
Thank you for your time

Submitted by Sydney on

Hi Sydney

What you’ve described sounds more like a focal seizure than an absence seizure. This is because you can remain aware during a focal seizure. During an absence seizure you would be unconscious for a few seconds.

However, it’s not possible for us to say if what you experienced was a seizure or not. Some people can feel unwell when they see flashing or flickering lights, but this doesn’t always mean they have had a seizure or have epilepsy. If you’re concerned, it would be worth seeing your GP (family doctor) about what happened. If they think it might have been a seizure they should arrange for you to see a neurologist to investigate further.

Best wishes


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team


Submitted by rich on

My daughter is 10 and has recently started zoning out with a blank look on her face and repeating herself over and over again for approximately 30 seconds-1minute saying things such as 'when am I getting out' 'how do you use this?' etc I did originally think she was just joking on, but now it has happened well into double figures and she genuinely doesn't know what has happened. She ended up riding up someone's drive the other day on her bike and zoning out there repeating 'how do you use this'. We do have a dr appointment for this week but I can't seem to find any information on seizures involving talking. Any help would be gratefully received.

Submitted by Kirsty on

Hi Kirsty


Difficulties processing language including confused speech can be a non-motor symptom of a focal seizure.


It can be helpful to make a record of what you and others are observing. This can be really useful for getting an accurate picture and diagnosis. In case it is helpful this is a link to our seizure diary information and a downloadable diary.



I hope you are able to find some answers about what is happening for your daughter soon.




Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Mags - Epilepsy... on

I would like a bit of advice. I have been having “episodes” for nearly a year now. After researching online it seems I have focal seizures as there are many people with the exact same symptoms I experience. From reading this website it seems nothing can be done for them so is there any point in me seeing a neurologist? My GP did write me a letter for referral however I chose not to bother as I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. Can these focal seizures lead to anything serious or can I just continue to ignore and hope they will eventually stop?

Submitted by Tayyiba on

Hi Tayyiba

Deciding what is right for you can be a tough decision. Some people with occasional focal aware seizures may not even realise that it could be epilepsy and will not have a diagnosis. For other people a diagnosis gives them an opportunity to rule out other causes and discuss what treatment, if any, is right for them. You might like to look at our information about diagnosing epilepsy here: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/diagnosis/diagnosing-epilepsy

The treatment for epilepsy is usually epilepsy medicines. With the right dose of the right epilepsy medicine up to 7 in 10 people with epilepsy can be seizure free. But some people choose not to take medicines depending on the type and frequency of their seizures. It is something that people can usually discuss with their consultant or epilepsy nurse. We have more information about epilepsy medicines here: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/treatment

We have no way of predicting how epilepsy develops. We know that some people experience very few focal episodes. For other people epilepsy can develop and they may start to experience changes to consciousness and other types of seizures as well. The difficulty with uncontrolled seizures is that they can cause longer term damage to things like memory.

I hope this gives you some information to help you to make a decision about what to do next. You would be welcome to contact us on the Helpline if you think we can help any further: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/support/helpline


Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Mags - Epilepsy... on

I’ve had several tonic-clonic seizures that have landed me in the hospital, but since taking Keppra, I’ve been lucky enough not to have more. Today was the first time I’ve read about focal seizures. It almost perfectly describes something I’ve dealt with for years, but never been able to describe to a doctor. I can feel it coming (unlike tonic clonic ones) and the only way to describe it is like an unwelcome, unpleasant orgasm. It usually occurs when I’m falling asleep, but can happen any time. It feels like if I don’t move, I’ll die, and YES to the deja vu description as well. Keppra doesn’t seem to have any effect with these. It’s scary, but I haven’t died yet. MRI’s and EEG’s have come back clear. Been waiting for a neurologist appointment for 6 months now. I hope some others can relate to this. I feel less alone after reading this Q & A.

Submitted by Sean on

Within the past two weeks I have begun having episodes where I get dizzy (I experience it more like vertigo rather than the feeling of being lightheaded) and my mind goes blank. During this time I have an almost out of body sensory experience, it’s as if I’m vaguely aware of what’s going on around me but not really - kinda like that period of time just before your nod off to sleep where you can hear people moving about but you don’t respond. I’ve been told it lasts about 1-2 minutes and that I don’t recall what I was doing or the conversation immediately before the episode (although I remember everything earlier. After these episodes I get extremely tired - generally I can do whatever to get me home, but I want to take a nap as soon as possible. I have a history of migraines as well as hemiplegic migraine - both respond only to Topomax for preventative management but I can’t handle being on it for longer than six months at a time. ☹️ My father had gran mal seizures. I’ve visited my General Practioner and he agrees I need to see my Neurologist. He is out of the country currently so I’m awaiting his return. I know you can’t diagnose me, but it would be very comforting to know if you have heard of other patients with symptoms like mine? It seems focal seizures are the only thing I can find that “fit” my symptoms, and given my health and family history it seems there could be evidence for it.

I guess I just would like to think I have an idea about what is going on with me right now as I await my doctor’s arrival back into the country. It’s hard to keep experiencing what I am going through not knowing what it is and not really being sure about what precautions I should be taking. I don’t want to go to extreme s and shut down my life, but I don’t want to endanger myself or others either. 😔

Submitted by Teresa on

Hi Theresa,

There are lots of different symptoms of focal seizures. Some people have told us that they have similar experiences to what you’ve described during a focal seizure. But as you say, we can’t make a diagnosis and there may be other things that could lead to these symptoms.

Not knowing can be very difficult and I hope you get some answers from your neurologist soon. You may find our safety information useful in helping you decide what precautions to take in the meantime (https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/daily-life/safety).

Best wishes


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Hi Teresa

There are lots of different symptoms of focal seizures. Some people have told us that they have similar experiences to what you’ve described during a focal seizure. But as you say, we can’t make a diagnosis and there may be other things that could lead to these symptoms.

Not knowing can be very difficult and I hope you get some answers from your neurologist soon. You may find our safety information useful in helping you decide what precautions to take in the meantime (https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/daily-life/safety).

Best wishes


Epilepsy Action Helpline Team 

Submitted by Jess - Epilepsy... on

Hi, my name is Myah. I am the youngest sister my family but; my older sister has epilepsy. and it's whenever she looks directly at bright lights. like not even the flashy ones like photosensitive seizures. She has seizures with flashy lights to but that was 5 years ago. she even had one last night right at a stoplight. pls, help thank you.

Submitted by Myah Phillips on

I’ve been having episodes started about two years ago for no reason my head would feel wuzzy then my right arm and hand would go numb pins & needles for about two minutes I know what’s going on around me ,I’ve had a bit of depression and I’ve started with these episodes again having as many as 7 in a day after having them I can become very tired ,just come on for no reason then I had about a three week break from them and they started again one when I was having bloods taken at doctors ,my right side of face can feel numb I’m waiting for an appointment to see a neurologist. Can anyone suggest what it could be .

Submitted by Heather on

Hi Heather. That sounds very unsettling for you. I don’t know what your episodes are but it does seem like there are a few things going on for you that could be related. It would be worth talking this through with your GP to see what their suggestions might be. I hope you get some answers soon.



Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry - Epilep... on

After Googling recently and reading this post,it seems what i've had mostly from 1989 til wained recently are this. And as i had a depressed skull fracture in parietal region as a 2 yr old(unconscious 30 mins),a minor frontal one between 5-8(5 mins),various bangs in frontal due to clumsiness or hyperactivity. Worst one's are colour changes in streetlights-white to purple(with halo's before),and orange to red,and a wave of numbness/burning tingling below waist and feel fear VERY strong(fight or flight!). About a few seconds,but can have clusters for a fortnight. But due to stupid MH saying in 1990 that i had MH symptoms,every other dr has said same. Seems seeing a specialist cannot be even considered cos NHS obsession of giving MH drugs,or CCG's not wanting any cost. Now mostly roads widen when i cross-daily!
Had Dissociation diagnosis amongst many-all not relevant.
Has been a very lonely 30 yrs of wasting time with NHS drs! anyone's thoughts? Jason.

Submitted by Jason Tucker on

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