The human brain operates by transmitting electrical signals via neurons (nerve cells). When there is a surge in these electrical signals, an individual will suffer an epileptic seizure. Seizures can impact the entire brain, but a partial seizure affects just a small portion of the brain. Epileptic seizures can occur as a result of various factors such as family history or sustaining a brain injury but their cause is often unknown. According to statistics, approximately 65 million people across the world have epilepsy with about 3 million in the United States. In the US alone, about 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are reported each year.
Research has also projected that 1 in every 26 people currently living in the United States is set to develop epilepsy at one point in their lifetime. As such, it is essential that you be knowledgeable on the types of epileptic seizures as they can affect anybody, even people close to you.
What are complex partial seizures?
A complex partial seizure is a type of epileptic seizure that originates in a small region of the frontal lobe or the temporal lobe of the human brain. From here, they rapidly spread to other parts of the brain that play a role in alertness and awareness. As such, despite an individual’s eyes remaining open and moving in a manner that seems to be deliberate, the truth is that they’re not really conscious. When the symptoms are not very distinct, people around the individual experiencing these seizures may think he/she is merely daydreaming. Some may even experience these complex partial seizures without noticing anything is happening to them. This type of seizure can even wipe out the person’s memories of events immediately before or after the seizure.
A number of these seizures, particularly those that originate in the temporal lobe, begin with a simple partial seizure. The individual then loses consciousness and stares blankly. Most people make movements with their mouth, pick at their clothing, or make other random, jerky movements. Such movements are referred to as “automatisms.” In a few cases, individuals may tend to repeat words or phrases, scream, laugh, or even cry. During these seizures, some individuals engage in rather embarrassing or dangerous activities such as taking off their clothes or walking or running into traffic. Such individuals need to plan in advance and put in place the necessary precautions.
Complex partial seizures that originate in the frontal lobe always seem to be shorter compared to those that originate in the temporal lobe. These seizures that originate in the frontal lobe also increasingly tend to consist of automatisms such as thrusting of the pelvis and cycling like movements with the legs. Some complex partial seizures develop into secondarily generalized seizures. These seizures will persist for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. After regaining consciousness, the individual may remain confused or tired for approximately 15 minutes and in some cases may not regain normal function for several hours.
In respect to other types of seizures, the outlook is entirely dependent on whether the cause of the seizure is clear. Some patients can outgrow seizures and manage them with proper medication. For those seizures that fail to respond to medication, surgery can be effective in eliminating some of them. Partial seizures are the most prevalent kind of seizures.
Who can suffer from complex partial seizures?
Virtually everybody can suffer from complex partial seizures. However, they tend to be more widespread in individuals who have suffered a stroke, brain infection, head injury, or brain tumor. In most cases, the cause is not always clear. After a person regains consciousness following this type of an epileptic seizure, he/she tends to be confused or tired for approximately 15 minutes and can even take hours to fully return to normal. If the person received any injuries, they will need first aid administered immediately.
How to Differentiate Complex Partial Seizures from Absence Seizures and Daydreaming
How do you know a person is experiencing a complex partial seizure and how regularly will they occur? In most cases, complex partial seizures tend to bear a resemblance to daydreaming or absence seizures. The frequency of complex partial seizure episodes is just a few times a day or a week. On the other hand, episodes of absence seizures can occur more often in a single day. By comparison, daydreaming episodes are very minimal and generally don’t last as long. Complex partial seizures can occur under any circumstances and at any time.
Complex partial seizures often start abruptly with a few starting slowly with signs. Interrupting complex partial seizures is not a good idea, unlike daydreaming episodes. Complex partial seizures can last for a few minutes while absence seizures only last for about 15-20 seconds. Whereas daydreaming episodes last until something attention-grabbing interrupts the individual. During complex partial seizures, individuals tend to be active and may experience automatisms. However, an individual having absence seizures or simply daydreaming, they will just appear to be staring into space. Furthermore, after a complex partial seizure, patients are often in a state of confusion.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Complex Partial Seizures
With careful observation, the diagnosis will be very conclusive in most cases. One of the most effective tests for this type of epileptic seizure is the use of an electroencephalogram (EEG). There are various treatment options that can assist in preventing the occurrence of complex partial seizures. Chronic complex partial seizures in individuals with epilepsy can be treated with surgery, diet therapy, and vagus nerve stimulation. If you suspect that a relative, a friend, or yourself might be experiencing complex partial seizures, report your concerns to a doctor immediately. If not properly managed through medication, complex partial seizures can cause injury, memory impairment, and, in extreme yet rare cases, death.
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