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What is a "simple partial" seizure?

Simple Partial Seizures

Charles Ribak, Ph.D. (Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, UC Irvine School of Medicine) gives expert video advice on: What triggers a simple partial seizure?; What should I do if I'm having simple partial seizures?; What should I do if I see someone having a simple partial seizure? and more...

What is a "simple partial" seizure?

A simple partial seizure is a seizure of the partial variety where the person remains awake and aware of the surroundings hence it's a localized seizure. In other words, it could be the type of seizure that causes a movement, maybe the left hand. Maybe there's a movement in the left hand, and the person is awake and they're able to see this. They know that something is wrong but they can't change it, the simple partial seizure is happening without their volition and it's involuntary. Therefore the person is wide awake during this particular type of a seizure.

What triggers a simple partial seizure?

Sometimes stress could be involved. It's hard to measure what stress is. Stress for one person might not be stressful for another person. So we really don't know what triggers a partial seizure.

What happens to the brain and body during a simple partial seizure?

During a simple partial seizure, the brain (of course) will have a localized region where there will be this synchronization of activity of large groups of neurons. These will be exciting the motor neurons that are in the spinal cord and those motor neurons then will cause contractions of the muscles in the limbs, in the arms and the legs. And of course, in the body, you will have the lots of muscles in just that local region, say the hand again, where you'll have contractions, muscular contractions and you'll have those movements.

What are the dangers of simple partial seizures?

The dangers of simple partial seizures is one of the downsides of having epilepsy. You exhibit a behavior that can be embarassing. We haven't talked about it in any of the previous questions, but I think that this is a socially weird type of behvaior, viewed as being kind of strange, and as a result, I think that this should cause people to try to get treatment. There are medicines that can help control this type of epilepsy.

What treatments are available to a person who has simple partial seizures?

With regards to simple partial seizures, the typical type of seizure is a localized seizure; the person remains conscious. The same types of medicines are used for this type as for when they become generalized, in the complex partials. This would be Tegretol and Dilantin.

What should I do if I'm having simple partial seizures?

One is conscious of the fact that they are having the seizure. Obviously, I think the first response would be to try to deny it. Think that, hey, it's not happening to me. Then after awhile I think the individual gets used to it and starts to live with it. I think the key thing is to document when you are having it, how long it lasts and then, talk to your individual doctor or go and see a neurologist, a specialist, who is in this field of treating people with epilepsy.

What should I do if I see someone having a simple partial seizure?

If you see someone having a simple partial seizure, probably the most important thing that you could do is to point it out to them, do not ignore it. You might want to use some tactful language and say, "Excuse me, I am noticing that your hands seem to be shaking a lot. Is this something that happens a lot to you?” Don't delve into it, but at least point it out you are aware of it. Nine times out of ten you are not going to know that it is a seizure, it might be just simply be some nervous tic that the person might have or most people would think that would be the case.