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complex partial seizure

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Temporal lobe

Alternative Names
temporal lobe epilepsy, temporal lobe seizures, psychomotor epilepsy

A seizure is an abnormal change in the electrical activity of the brain. These electrical changes may occur in or near the part of the brain called the temporal lobe. This is known as a complex partial seizure

What is going on in the body?
The reason for the electrical disturbance causing a seizure is often not known. Complex partial seizures are one of the most common types of seizures. Unlike other seizures, complex partial seizures usually don't make people appear to completely lose consciousness. However, any seizure may spread over the entire brain. This can result in a loss of consciousness or convulsions.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Seizures that remain in or near the temporal lobe may cause:
  • facial twitching
  • uncontrollable, rhythmic movement of an arm or leg
  • altered consciousness, or a change in the person's awareness of his or her surroundings
  • hallucinations and other sensations, such as seeing flashing lights or hearing a buzzing sound
  • prolonged "daydreaming"
  • sleepiness and confusion
  • fidgeting of the hands
  • lip smacking
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Any of the following conditions may be the cause of a complex partial seizure:
  • structural defects in the brain present at birth
  • brain tumours
  • abnormal blood vessels
  • bleeding in the brain
  • head injury
  • infections in or around the brain
  • medication or drug side effects
  • scars on the brain
Most often, the cause is unknown.

What can be done to prevent the condition?
There is usually no way to prevent this condition because the cause is often not known. Medications can help prevent further seizures.

How is the condition diagnosed?
A test called an electroencephalogram or EEG can be used to measure the brain waves. The brain waves become abnormal in many people who have seizures, and are almost always abnormal during a seizure. Special x-ray tests such as a cranial CT or cranial MRI may be ordered to examine the brain for abnormalities.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Rarely, complex partial seizures can progress to seizures that do not stop. When this happens it is called status epilepticus, which could possibly cause brain or other bodily damage if left untreated.

What are the risks to others?
This is not a contagious condition.

What are the treatments for the condition?
Medications that suppress seizures are usually effective. These medications can usually prevent seizures or at least make them happen less often. If a scar can be seen in the temporal lobe this can sometimes be surgically removed.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
All medications have side effects. These may include allergic reactions, stomach upset, sleepiness and others. Other side effects depend on the medication used.

What happens after treatment for the condition?
Treatment may be required for life in some people. Persons who have not had a seizure in a long time may be taken off medication, to see if the seizures come back. If a person has not had a seizure for several years, the doctor may decide to stop treatment.

How is the condition monitored?
Anyone with seizures should be evaluated. A brain specialist called a neurologist usually follows people with seizures on a regular basis. Once a control plan is in place, a primary care physician or may monitor the illness.

Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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