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What is a Focal Seizure: Types, Causes

What is a Focal Seizure?

The way a human brain functions is related to electrical signals and neurons. Through the nerve cells or neurons the human brain sends electrical signals to various parts of the body to work. If there is a surge in the electrical activity within the neurons, a seizure can occur. When a seizure occurs, the physical dysfunctions that occur are visual disturbances, muscular contractions, blackouts and fainting. The electrical surge causing a seizure may affect the whole brain or a part of the brain. A seizure that occurs in only one area of the brain is called focal seizure or focal onset seizure. It is also known as partial seizure. This is different from a generalised seizure where the whole brain is affected. It is suggested that when a person is having a focal seizure or focal onset seizure, he or she needs to be kept away from sharp objects until the seizure is over to avoid injury. If this kind of seizure’s underlying causes are identified and treated soon, the number of focal onset seizures occurring to a person can be reduced.

What are the Types of Focal Seizures?

Several physical symptoms occur due to the electrical surge that a brain experiences. Any electrical disturbance not only produces varied physical symptoms but indicates to a seizure occurring in a part of brain also known as focal onset seizure. There are two main types of focal seizure or focal onset seizure. They are:

  • Focal Aware: During this kind of focal seizure or focal onset seizure, you will not lose your consciousness. This kind of simple partial seizure only remains for a couple of minutes. The duration of a focal aware is mostly less than a minute. Such kind of seizures creates a fear or anxiety within the patients sometimes. A simple focal onset seizure affects your senses. Your senses will start to dysfunction while reading the world around you like you like it will make you smell something strangely or taste something differently. You will also felt twitches around your fingers, arms and legs. Flashes of light and dizziness are other common reactions.
  • Focal Impaired Awareness: A complex partial seizure is also known as a focal onset impaired awareness. During the focal onset impaired awareness you tend to lose consciousness in most cases. You will fail to remember what happened during the seizure. Usually such a kind of seizure lasts for a minute or two but can extend for some more minutes. Complex partial seizure gives a feeling of uneasiness and warning and nausea before it hits you. Not only you will remain confused after the seizure, you will also feel tired and fall asleep after the attack. Certain reactions that may occur to you after you had a complex focal seizure are gagging, smacking your lips, crying and laughing. Even though the seizure lasts for a couple of minutes, it takes a considerable amount of time to come out of it.
  • Secondary Generalised Seizures: Such a kind of seizure begins to occur and affect one part of the brain. Then it starts to spreads to the nerve cells on both the sides of the brain. Convulsions and muscular slackness can be caused due to such a kind of seizure. Other reactions of a secondary generalised seizure are similar to the physical symptoms of any seizure.

What are the Causes of a Focal Seizure?

Among the many causes leading to a focal seizure or focal onset seizure, some of the most common reasons are:

With proper diagnosis and treatment, a person suffering from focal seizure or focal onset seizure will be able to lead a normal life.


  1. “Focal Onset Seizures (Partial Seizures)” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-seizures/focal-onset-seizures

  2. “Seizures and Epilepsy: Overview” – Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17907-seizures-and-epilepsy/management-and-treatment

  3. “Understanding Epilepsy Seizures” – WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/guide/understanding-seizures

  4. “Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures)” – Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/focal-seizures-partial-seizures

  5. “What Causes Seizures and Epilepsy?” – Epilepsy Foundation. https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/what-causes-seizures-and-epilepsy

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 10, 2023

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